Getting an HIV test and finding out you are positive can be difficult to accept, but note that with treatment, persons who are HIV positive can live long, healthy and fulfilled lives.
A person living with HIV can be in relationships, enjoy a satisfying sex life, have children and live a normal life by knowing their status and being placed on treatment commonly referred to as Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART).
Anti-Retroviral Therapy slows down the effects of HIV in the body, which keeps the person healthy and lowers or even stops (if the viral load becomes undetectable as a result of prolonged adherence to treatment) the chances of the transmission of the virus to a sexual partner(s).

What is HIV?

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks cells that help the body fight infection, making a person more vulnerable to other infections and diseases.

How does HIV spread?

HIV can be found in body fluids of an infected person, such as blood, semen, vaginal fluids and breast milk and hence, spread through contact with these bodily fluids It is important to note that if left untreated, HIV can lead to the development of AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) which is the to the most advanced stages of the HIV infection. Modes of transmission include:

  • Unprotected sex (having anal, oral or virginal sex with someone who has HIV without using a condom)
  • Sharing needles or syringes (According to CDC, HIV can live in a used needle up to 42 days depending on temperature and other factors)
  • From mother to child during pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding (this can only occur if a HIV positive mother is not on ART). Going for antenatal care is highly recommended for pregnant women
  • Receiving blood transfusion from unscreened blood containing the virus.

HIV Prevention

Preventing HIV equals protecting against transmission channels. The ABCDE of HIV prevention entails:.

  • Abstinence
  • Be mutually faithful with a faithful partner
  • Correct and consistent condom use
  • Do not use drugs because HIV can be transmitted through injecting drugs (syringes/needle) or impair judgement/decision making ability resulting in risky sexual behaviours
  • Early Detection and Education

You can also prevent HIV infection by taking HIV prevention medications – pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP).

Pre-exposure prophylaxis (or PrEP) is a way for people who do not have HIV but who are at very high risk of getting HIV to prevent HIV infection by taking a pill every day. Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) means taking antiretroviral medicines (ART) after being potentially exposed to HIV to prevent becoming infected. PrEP is less effective when it is not taken consistently following the doctor’s prescription.

HIV Treatment

HIV treatment involves taking medicines that slow the progression of the virus in your body. This is because there is no cure for HIV/AIDs, but strict adherence to antiretroviral therapy/treatment (ART) can effectively reduce the disease’s progress, reduce viral load to almost undetectable as well as prevent other opportunistic infections. Delaying treatment, harms the immune system and puts the individual at a higher risk of developing AIDS, which can be life threatening.

What is Antiretroviral Therapy (ART)?

It is the use of medications to treat and manage the HIV infection. People on ART take a combination of medicines (called HIV treatment regimen) every day following the doctor’s prescription. HIV treatment should be started as soon as possible after confirmed positive HIV test; it is especially important to start ART right away for persons in certain conditions such as during pregnancy and/or when having coinfections (e.g. Tuberculosis). ART can keep a person living with HIV healthy by reducing the amount of the virus (or viral load) in the blood and body fluids. It also reduces the chances of transmitting HIV to others as long as treatment is adhered to.

HIV symptoms might not show for some persons after contracting the virus for months or even years, however, around 80% of people may develop acute retroviral syndrome around 2 – 6 weeks after the virus enters the body. For more information on acute retroviral syndrome, click here

HIV Stigma/Discrimination

HIV discrimination refers to the unfair and unjust treatment of someone based on their real or perceived HIV status. Discrimination can also affect family and friends, and those who care for people with HIV. HIV discrimination is often fuelled by myths of casual transmission of HIV and pre-existing biases against certain groups, certain sexual behaviours, drug use and fear of illness and death. Stigma/discrimination of persons living with HIV is illegal and a criminal offence.


HIV is not transmitted through air or water, saliva, sweat, tears or kissing, insects or pet, sharing toilets, food, drink, hugging or hand shaking. HIV can be gotten or transmitted through body fluid such as blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid

Know your right

As a person living with HIV/AIDs, you are entitled to the same rights as any other person as captured in the 1999 Nigerian Constitution and the HIV/AIDS Anti-Discrimination Act 2014 makes it illegal to discriminate against people based on their HIV status.