HIV is short for human immunodeficiency virus. It is a virus that causes HIV infection, and may over time cause acute immunodeficiency syndrome, or better known as AIDS.
A person who is infected with HIV will go through a number of stages. The first phase is the acute phase, where they will fall ill as the immune system responds to the initial infection. Some people may experience very vague symptoms similar to a flu or cold, or they may not experience symptoms at all.
Once the body finishes this response, the infection will progress into a latent stage where the virus silently multiplies in the body and slowly weakens the immune system by attacking a certain kind of white blood cell called CD4. As this happens, many people do not experience symptoms and there would be no indication that this is happening unless they get tested for HIV.
If the infection is not identified and the virus is not treated in time, the body will be exposed to various illnesses and cancers that the weakened immune system is unable to fight. A person who reaches this stage is said to have AIDS.
However, HIV is easily manageable, and even AIDS is treatable with the right medications. While HIV/AIDS has historically been portrayed as a fatal, untreatable illness or a ‘death sentence,’ the situation right now is vastly different. Plenty of medical research to understand the virus’s impact on the human body and how to treat it has been done and is still continuing.
HOW IS HIV TRANSMITTED?
HIV is transmitted through certain bodily fluids that contain the virus. For men, it is transmitted through blood, cum, precum, and rectal fluid.
The practices that pose the highest risk of HIV infection are:
- Having unsafe sex (fucking or getting fucked bareback/without condoms);
- Sharing needles or syringes when using drugs or having chem fun (CF).
WHAT’S MY RISK?
Each sexual activity has different risks of HIV infection. When you have anal sex, you are at a higher risk of getting HIV if you’re a bottom, as compared to if you’re a top.
The risk of getting HIV through oral sex is negligible, but still present. Remember that you can still be exposed to other STIs such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea during oral sex.
- The partner who gives oral sex is at a slightly higher risk as compared to the partner who receives. If you’re the giver, having open wounds in the mouth, an untreated STI in the throat, or recent dental work may increase this risk substantially. It’s recommended that you refrain from having oral sex until you’re healed.
- Swallowing cum is unlikely to transmit HIV, as the viruses are killed in the stomach during digestion. however, letting cum remain in the mouth is likely to put you at a slight risk, especially if you have cuts or sores in the mouth.
If you are HIV negative but have an untreated STI, your risk of contracting HIV increases dramatically. Read more about other STIs here.
If a HIV-positive person is “undetectable,” it means that there is no chance that they may transmit the virus to someone else. This is only achievable if they are on HAART medication. Read more about it here.
Curious to find out what each activity’s risk is? Mix, match and compare different situations using our Risk Calculator.
HOW WOULD I KNOW IF I HAVE HIV?
When someone contracts HIV, their body will undergo a process called ‘seroconversion,’ where the body changes from being HIV negative to positive. During this period, some guys do not get any symptoms. Others may develop symptoms between 2 weeks to 2 months after exposure.
Some symptoms include:
- A flu-like illness
- Sore throat
- Swollen lymph nodes
After infection, HIV remains in the body, slowly increasing in number as it attacks the white blood cells responsible for immunity. Many people do not show symptoms as this happens, but if left untreated, the immune system will weaken and be attacked to the point where it becomes AIDS. An untreated HIV infection can progress into AIDS within months or years.
HIV can take as long as three months to be detectable in tests, depending on which test is being performed. This time period is known as the ‘window period.’ Most rapid test kits used in clinics have a window period of 1-3 months – discuss this with the clinic before you go in for a test.
Because HIV can sometimes affect an infected person quietly and without symptoms, regular testing is extremely important in helping you be sure of your status. If you are in doubt, get a HIV screening test done as soon as possible – it’s fast and highly accurate.
Testing for HIV is very easy, especially with the availability of rapid screening tests. Think about it as a short and sweet hookup – you go in, get pricked, wait for a while before getting your results, and leave. Simple as!
HOW DO I TREAT HIV?
A person may have HIV, but the condition will not progress to AIDS as long as they keep the virus under control with treatment.
This can be done by following a lifetime course of highly-active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) medication. HAART does not cure HIV, but instead stops them from multiplying, reducing the amount of HIV in the body. The Ministry of Health provides free HIV treatment and HAART medication for Malaysian citizens at government hospitals.
As long as a HIV-positive person regularly takes their HAART medication and maintains positive and healthy changes to their lifestyle, they will be able to live just as healthily and as long as a person who does not have HIV.
HOW CAN I PREVENT MYSELF FROM GETTING HIV?
Everyone should be aware of the risks of getting HIV from certain activities, and protect themselves in such situations each time. As a member of the community, everyone has the responsibility of knowing their status and to protect each other from getting the virus.
CHEM FUN (CF)
If you take part in CF, it’s very important that you do so in a manner that protects you and your partners from HIV.
Sharing drug use instruments such as syringes and needles is extremely not advised. HIV can remain active for a long time in syringes and needles, and reusing them puts you at a very high risk of being exposed to the virus. Always remember to bring and use your own instruments.
Being ‘high’ will impair your judgment when having sex and can potentially lead you to engage in risky sexual behaviours or forgetting to use protection. Insist on using protection when having sex, or consider going on PrEP.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Is there a cure for HIV?
While research is being done to find a cure for HIV, there is as yet still no cure for it. HAART medication helps to keep the virus down to undetectable levels, but doesn’t totally remove it from the body.
Will I definitely get AIDS if I have HIV?
Nope! Taking your HIV medication regularly stops the virus from dividing and damaging your immune system. If your immune system stays strong, you will not get AIDS. HIV-positive people can live long, healthy lives with proper treatment.
Can I get HIV from kissing?
HIV does not spread through kissing, even deep kissing, unless both partners have sores or bleeding in their mouths. HIV is not spread through saliva.
Can I get HIV from a blowjob?
The risk of getting HIV from oral sex is present but extremely low, for both the giver and receiver. The giver’s risk increases if there are open wounds, sores, or ulcers in the mouth, if they have a throat STI, or if they’ve recently had dental work done.
Can I get HIV from fisting or fingering?
The risk of getting HIV from fisting or fingering is present in the following situations:
- The receiver comes into contact with blood, cum, or precum on the giver’s fingers, hands or arms. The risk increases if the receiver has open wounds in their anus or rectum, or has an untreated STI.
- The giver has open wounds on his fingers, hands or arms, or doesn’t cover them with gloves. The giver can reduce this risk by using gloves.
Can I get HIV from touching someone with HIV, or using their things?
No – HIV dies very quickly once it leaves the body and is exposed to air, and is not transmitted or absorbed through skin.
Can I get HIV from tattoos or piercings?
Only if the needles have been reused – a good tattoo or piercing parlour will make it a point to use new and sterile needles for each customer, so getting a used needle is extremely unlikely. Make sure that the tattoo artist or piercer opens the needle packaging in front of you.
Can I get HIV from mosquito bites
No – mosquitoes do not carry HIV, nor do they inject blood into the body.
I’m worried that I was exposed to the virus. What can I do?
If you’re HIV negative, get PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis) within 72 hours. Taking PEP for a month can help protect you against HIV, and the earlier you start, the better. Read more about PEP here.
Is there a connection between HIV and other STIs?
Having an untreated STI can increase the risk of getting or transmitting HIV.
If you are HIV-negative but have an STI, you are about 3 times as likely to get HIV if you have unprotected sex with someone who has HIV. On the other hand, if you are HIV-positive and also have another STI, you are about 3 times as likely as other people with HIV to transmit HIV through sexual contact.
The only way to know for sure if you have an STI is to get tested. If you’re sexually active, you and your partners should get tested for STIs (including HIV if you’re HIV-negative) regularly, even if you don’t have symptoms.
Will people find out about my status?
After your HIV positive status has been confirmed by your hospital, your doctor is obliged by the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 to inform the Ministry of Health and your District Health Office about your status, but this is done only for statistical purposes and to ensure that you and your partners are informed about your status. To ensure that your case is reported to the correct district, you must provide your current residential address when registering at the hospital.
A District Health Officer will get in touch with you by telephone to ensure that you are aware of your status and to counsel you on treatment. This session is conducted in a confidential, professional and non-judgmental manner, so there is no need to worry about your information being leaked.
It’s very important that you speak to them when they get in touch with you – an officer may visit your place of residence or the address registered in your identity card if they are unable to contact you by phone.
Outside of these situations, your health information will be kept secret and will not be shared with other parties or organisations. You are not obliged to disclose your status to anyone else – not even your family, friends, or employer. You may choose to do so personally if you are comfortable with doing so.