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Oct 20, 2023 | Miss Malini | Sexual Health
HIV, or Human Immunodeficiency Virus, has been one of the most misunderstood and stigmatized health conditions for decades. The reality is that with advances in medical science and growing global collaboration networks, HIV has transitioned from being a death sentence to a manageable condition. People living with HIV (PLHIV) have been leading their regular lives by getting proper treatment and care.
Antiretroviral therapy (ART) is the answer to HIV treatment. When taken as prescribed, ART can suppress the virus, allowing the immune system to recover and thus significantly reducing the risk of transmitting the virus to others. Moreover, according to The Humsafar Trust led Sahyog Clinics, PLHIVs on successful treatment have a life expectancy comparable to those without HIV
Sakshi Mane, Project Director, NETREACH, notes, “Our outreach indicates that it’s high time we dispel misconceptions surrounding sexual health. If you don’t know your options, check the NETREACH website and connect with our network of counsellors. Staying uninformed is the biggest problem which is contributing to the growing number of people getting infected with Sexually Transmitted Infections. HIV has a treatment, and very few are aware of it.”
One of the most persistent myths is that HIV leads to inevitable death, which is a myth. HIV and AIDS are different stages of infection and getting on HIV treatment suppresses the virus from progressing into AIDS. With access to proper healthcare and treatment, HIV can be contained. HIV spreads through unprotected sex, sharing needles, or from expectant parents to their unborn child. Understanding how it is transmitted can help reduce unnecessary fear and discrimination. HIV can affect anyone, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation.
How does the treatment suppress the virus?
Antiretroviral therapy (ART) medicines are available free at all government-run centres in India. This set of medicines is to be taken lifelong and helps in suppressing the HIV virus and improving the health of people living with the virus. ART consists of a combination of medications that target various stages of the HIV life cycle.
The HIV virus spreads in the body by duplicating and ART stops that. These medications inhibit the virus's ability to replicate and reduce its presence in the body. By consistently taking ART as prescribed, individuals with HIV can achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load, which means that the virus is effectively suppressed to extremely low levels. This not only helps the immune system stay strong but also significantly lowers the risk of transmitting HIV to others during sexual activity.
Regular HIV testing is a crucial component of early detection and timely intervention. HIV does not show symptoms, making it imperative for individuals to undergo routine testing, especially if they engage in behaviours that carry a higher risk of exposure. Early detection allows for swift initiation of ART, which can stop the virus's progression, prevent complications, and enhance overall health outcomes. Additionally, early diagnosis empowers individuals to take control of their health and make informed decisions to protect themselves and their partners.
“It is easy to quickly jump to conclusions with the idea of HIV. In 20 years of running clinics, we have received feedback that fear was an unnecessary first step approach. After seeking counselling clients are better informed and more than willing to get on treatment and continue with their lives. Empathy and knowledge are our greatest tools in dismantling the fear surrounding HIV. Speaking openly about Testing is not just a step towards awareness; it's a journey to a healthier, more informed, and compassionate society.", says, Vivek Raj Anand, CEO, The Humsafar Trust.
The Humsafar Trust led Project NETREACH website ‘www.netreach.co.in’ is a sexual healthcare services support portal that provides information and access to testing and treatment centres for STIs and HIV. The gateway has an extensive healthcare centre database in India for Government and Private centres. Connect with community-friendly experts to address any doubts before testing. This free counselling service extends beyond sexual health concerns; users can discuss issues related to mental health or treatment queries.