IMPORTANT TO KNOW ABOUT HIV
Today around 6 800 people live with hiv in Sweden. About 500 people are diagnosed with hiv each year. Those who receive an early diagnosis and treatment can live a good life for a long time thanks to today’s efficient therapy.
WHAT IS HIV?
Hiv is a virus that causes a life long infection. If you do not receive treatment, your immune system will gradually be destroyed and you develop aids. Aids is a collective name for all the diseases you can develop as a result of your damaged immune system. There are no cures or vaccines for hiv, but there is medicine that efficiently reduces the level of hiv in the body and makes it possible to live a good life, despite having hiv.
HOW IS HIV SPREAD?
All people, regardless of gender, age or sexual orientation can be infected with hiv. Hiv is mainly transmitted by individuals who have hiv without knowing, or who are not taking effective medication in three ways: through sexual contact, through exchange of blood and other bodily fluids as well as from mother to child during pregnancy.
The risk of spreading hiv is at its highest during the first months after getting hiv. At that time the virus level in the blood is very high, and in addition, many don’t know that they carry the virus and therefore can spread it further. The contagiousness also increases if you simultaneously carry any other sexually transmitted infections (STI).
Hiv is spread:
• through unprotected anal and vaginal intercourse as well as oral sex with a person living with hiv.
• through blood by sharing injection drug equipment, such as needles, with a person living with hiv.
• from mother to her child during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding.
HOW ISN’T HIV SPREAD?
You can hug and kiss a person living with hiv without being infected. You can drink from the same glass, sleep in the same bed, and touch each other without transmitting it between you. If you have hiv and receive efficient treatment, the chances of you infecting another person during sex is very small. If you use a condom during the entire sexual act, the probability of spreading the virus is minimal.
Hiv isn’t spread through:
• touching, caressing or kissing
• objects such as glass, cutlery, food or drinks
• mosquitos and other insects
• swimming pools, toilet seats or sauna benches
THIS IS HOW YOU PROTECT YOURSELF AGAINST HIV
To use a condom during sex is to be respectful and considerate. It is also the safest protection against hiv and other sexually transmitted infections if it’s used during the entire length of the intercourse, regardless of what type of intercourse it may be. Apart from condoms, testing and treatment are the best preventions. Get tested regularly for the sake of your own health. Early detection of hiv and early treatment reduces the spreading of hiv. Never share your injection equipment with anyone.
THIS IS HOW YOU TEST FOR HIV
By testing for hiv, you will find out if you are infected. In Sweden testing, doctor’s visits and medicines are free of charge and you can receive support and counselling if you need it. You get tested through a blood test at the health center or the hospital and if you like, you can be anonymous. By law, doctors and interpreters in Sweden are not allowed to tell anyone if you are hiv-positive or about your sexual orientation.
It’s important to be tested for several reasons – both to prevent spreading the virus if you are infected, and to keep it from developing into aids. The sooner you receive hiv-treatment, the better your body will respond to it.
TO LIVE WITH HIV
With an effective hiv-treatment the virus level in your blood is very low and you can continue living your life as usual when it comes to work, friends, and hobbies. You can have sex with a new partner if you use a condom and tell him or her that you have hiv. You are not obligated to tell your colleagues or other acquaintances that you live with hiv. In Sweden, no one is reported or deported because of hiv or their sexual orientation.
YOU CAN HAVE CHILDREN
You can have children of your own without the child getting hiv. New hiv medicines have reduced the risk of mother-to-child transmission of hiv to less than 1 %. The virus is most easily transmitted during the delivery and since the virus can also be transmitted through breast milk, a woman with hiv should not breast feed her child.
TO TELL AND TALK ABOUT HIV
It can be difficult to tell your friends and relatives that you have hiv. If you need to talk to someone or receive help and support, you can turn to any of the organisations at the bottom of this page. They can help you to get in contact with people in the same situation. The consultation is free of charge and everything you say is confidential.
Sources: www.folkhälsomyndigheten.se/radochfakta, www.1177.se, Noaks Ark, Kunskapsnätverket hiv/STI Mellansverige, rfsl.se, Hiv-Sverige.
Medical review: Anders Lindblom, Infectious Disease Specialist, Landstinget Dalarna