Important to know about HIV
Today around 6 800 people are living with HIV in Sweden. About 500 people get the diagnosis HIV positive each year. Those who get an early diagnosis and treatment can live and be healthy for a long time with the efficient medications that we have today.
What is HIV?
HIV is a virus that is transmitted through unprotected sex. In Sweden today the treatment is so effective that it lowers the viral load to practically zero. That makes the contagiousness very low. That is why people who are undergoing treatment for HIV can live a long life and even have children without transmitting the infection to anybody else. Without treatment HIV sooner or later leads to other illnesses. That stage of the infection is known as AIDS.
How is HIV transmitted?
All people regardless of gender, age or sexual orientation can get HIV. HIV is mainly transmitted from people who don’t know they have the infection, or who haven’t got an effective treatment. HIV transmitts in three ways: through sexual contacts, through exchange of blood or from mother to child during pregnancy.
The risk of transmission is highest during the first months after becoming infected. Then the viral load in the blood is high, and at the same time many don’t know that they have the virus and can therefore transmit it to others. The contagiousness becomes higher if you are carrying another STI.
HIV can be transmitted:
• through unprotected anal- and vaginal intercourse, and through oral sex
• through blood when sharing needles with a person that has HIV
• from mother to child during pregnancy, when giving birth or when breastfeeding
How is HIV not transmitted?
You don’t get HIV by hugging or kissing someone that has HIV. You can drink from the same glass, sleep in the same bed, touch each other without HIV being transmitted. If you have an effective treatment the risk of you transmitting HIV to someone you’re having sex with when using a condom is minimal.
HIV is not transmitted:
• through touch, caressing or kissing
• through items such as glasses and cutlery or through food and drink
• through mosquitoes and other insects
• through swimmingpools, toilet seats or sauna benches
How to protect yourself
Using a condom is to show respect for others. It’s also the safest protection against HIV and other STIs. A condom protects against infections if it is on during the whole of the intercourse, when the penis is inserted into the vagina, the mouth or the anus. Apart from condoms testing and treatment is the best prevention. Get tested regularly for your own health. Early discovery and treatment of HIV limits the spreading of HIV. Never share needles or other injection tools with anybody.
How you get tested
By getting tested you will know if you have HIV. In Sweden testing, doctors appointments and medication is free and you can get support and counselling if you need it. You get tested by submitting a blood sample at the healthcare clinic or at the hospital, and you can be anonymous. Doctors and interpreters have professional secrecy in Sweden and cannot tell anyone if you are HIV positive or LGBTQ.
It’s important that you get tested for many reasons; to prevent you from transmitting the infection to others and prevent you from developing AIDS. The earlier you are medicated, the better your body will respond to the treatment.
Living with HIV
With an effective treatment the viral load becomes very low and you can keep living your life as usual when it comes to work, friends and interests. You can have sex with a new partner if you use a condom when having intercourse and if you tell the other person that you have HIV. You have no obligation to tell your co-workers or others you know that you have HIV. In Sweden no one is reported or deported because of HIV or sexual orientation.
You can have children
You can have biological children without infecting them. New medications have reduced the probability of a child contracting HIV from its mother during pregnancy to less than half a percent. The virus is most easily transmitted during delivery and since the virus can be transmitted through breastmilk, a woman with HIV should not breastfeed her child.
To talk about HIV
Sometimes it can be difficult to tell your friends and family that you have HIV. If you want to talk to someone and get help and support you can contact one of the organisations at the bottom of the page. They can offer counselling to people with hiv and their relatives. The counselling is free of charge and everybody you talk to have professional secrecy.
Sources: www.folkhälsomyndigheten.se/radochfakta, www.1177.se, Noaks Ark, Kunskapsnätverket hiv/STI Mellansverige, rfsl.se, Hiv-Sverige. hividag.se