Medical researchers, and many AIDS activists have increased the awareness of HIV/AIDS tremendously over the past few years. As a result, nowadays, people are getting tested more often in order to begin early treatment but HIV infections still continue to be a threat to people all over the world, especially to newborn children. If you are thinking about getting pregnant or are already pregnant, it is best to test!
Many people infected with HIV don’t know they have it because they have never been tested for the presence of the virus in their blood. Another reason they may not know they are HIV positive is because it can take five years or more for the symptoms of’ the infection to show up. HIV damages the nerves and brain, the nervous system. It also attacks and destroys the body’s natural defence system against disease-the immune system. Specifically, HIV destroys the CD4 cells of the immune system. Without enough of these special cells, the body has difficulty fighting off infections. When the immune system becomes so weakened by the attacking virus that certain life-threatening infections set in, and if the CD4 cell count is low in the person’s blood, the person is said to have AIDS.
While it is true that an HIV infection has no cure, treatment is available today that can help people enjoy an improved quality of life and live longer. Treatment can also help lessen the risk of passing the virus to an unborn child.
How HIV is Passed From Person to Person
HIV is found in an infected person’s body fluids, semen, blood, vaginal secretions and breast milk. Most commonly, the virus is spread from an infected person to a non-infected person during sex (one great reason to use a condom). However, the virus can also enter a person’s bloodstream by way of a contaminated needle eg. if you share needles with an HIV positive drug user. An infected mother can also pass the virus to her baby during pregnancy, delivery or even while breast-feeding. Very rarely an HIV infection occur from a blood transfusion.
Things you can do to protect yourself from becoming infected with HIV:
- Use a condom each and every time you have sex, learn how to use them properly by reading the instructions on the package and carry them with you all the time.
- Limit the number of sexual partners you have, the more partners you have, the greater your risk for getting HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STD).
- Don’t take part in risky sex, the most unsafe is vaginal or anal sex without the protection of a condom.
- Ask questions about your partner’s sexual history, who you have sex with, in this era of AIDS, should not be a casual decision. It is important to know the sexual and drug use history of the person you are sleeping with. I would advise you to test each other before having sex and keep talking about having one partner and safe sex throughout your relationship.
Stopping the transfer of HIV from Women to Children
The number of women who are infected with HIV is increasing. A pregnant woman can pass HIV to her unborn baby. Many babies infected with HIV die within three years unless they are treated. Today, there is a treatment to reduce the risk of passing HIV from an infected mother to her baby. That is why every woman thinking about becoming pregnant, and those women who are already pregnant, should strongly consider being tested for HIV. Every pregnant woman in Nigeria should be offered HIV testing during pregnancy. If your doctor doesn’t mention testing you for HIV before you get pregnant or during your pregnancy-then please go and get tested. If you visit any public hospital, you can get tested for free and it’s not expensive even at private laboratories.
Treatment for Positive HIV Test Result in Pregnancy
If you are pregnant and you decide to go on with the pregnancy, you can lessen the risk of passing the virus on to your unborn child by up to 60%. Studies have shown that when HIV positive womenin early stages (i.e. with no symptoms of AIDS) are given a drug called AZT (zidovudine) while pregnant, and during their labour and birth, they are much less likely to pass the virus to their fetus. You may need to continue taking this medicine till after your baby is born-depending on your health status. AZT will also be given to your newborn baby until he or she is six weeks old. This drug can cause some side effects. Therefore, it is very important to tell your doctor all the symptoms you may be having so that your doctor can be sure you get the proper care. Without AZT treatments, the chances of your baby becoming infected are one in four (25%). With the treatments, the chances drop from 60% to 8% and many babies have been born negative to HIV positive parents.
HIV is not a gift you want to give your baby, so get tested today!!!