HIV is a virus spread through body fluids that affects specific cells of the immune system, called CD4 cells, or T cells. The immune system helps our body to fight diseases. Over time, HIV can destroy so many of these cells that the body can’t fight off infections and diseases. When this happens, HIV infection leads to AIDS.
Ethiopia is one of the most HIV affected countries. The United Nations AIDS organization estimates that during 2012 approximately 800,000 Ethiopians are living with HIV (representing about 1.5% of adult population), over 47,000 died from AIDS, and about 1 million children were orphaned due to AIDS. Watch video on basic facts about HIV/AIDS.
The most common way HIV is transmitted is through unprotected sex with a person infected with HIV. The following steps can reduce your risk:
- Know your HIV status. Everyone above the age of 13 years should be tested for HIV. If you are at increased risk for HIV, you should be tested about once a year.
- If you have HIV, you can get medical care, treatment, and supportive services to help you stay healthy and reduce your ability to transmit the virus to others.
- If you are pregnant and find that you have HIV, treatments are available to reduce the chance that your baby will have HIV.
- Abstain from sexual activity or be in a long-term relationship with an uninfected partner.
- Limit your number of sex partners. The fewer partners you have, the less likely you are to encounter someone who is infected with HIV or another sexually transmitted disease.
- Use condoms correctly and consistently. Latex condoms are highly effective at preventing transmission of HIV and some other sexually transmitted diseases.
- Get tested and treated for sexually transmitted diseases and insist that your partner does too.
- Male circumcision has also been shown to reduce the risk of HIV transmission from women to men during vaginal sex.
- Avoid injections with needles that are not clean.
- Obtain medical treatment immediately if you think you were exposed to HIV. Sometimes, HIV medications can prevent infection if they are started quickly. This is called post-exposure prophylaxis.