We are living in pandemic times…Obviously because of Covid-19 but also, let’s not forget we are still in the age of an epidemic; HIV.
HIV is a virus that grows in your body and weakens your immune system, making it harder to fight off germs and common illnesses.
Syphilis is a “skin-to-skin” sexually transmitted disease. caused by the bacterioum Treponema pallidum, syphilis is a bacterial infection spread through sexual interactions.
If one is HIV-negative, having syphilis can make it easier to contract HIV. Sores or inflammation from syphilis can make it easier for HIV to enter the body. As we continue to champion testing of Sexually Transmitted Diseases(STDs), here are facts you should know about HIV and Syphilis.
What You Should Know About HIV
- AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) is the last stage of HIV infection. It happens when your CD4 count drops below 200.
- A person living with HIV is more likely to get sick from things that don’t affect other people. And people with AIDS tend to get serious infections or cancers.
- HIV is no longer a death sentence in developed countries, which have the resources to treat it. Nonetheless, millions of people around the world contract the disease and die of AIDS, the last stage of the virus’s infection.
- HIV hijacks infection-fighting white blood cells called CD4 cells and uses them to churn out thousands of copies of itself. Foregoing treatment causes the virus to destroy many of these cells to a point where your body can’t protect you from life-threatening infections.
- There are in fact two strains of the virus: HIV-1 and HIV-2. Most HIV infections around the world are HIV-1. If left untreated, HIV-1 causes AIDS. The other type is HIV-2 which is found mostly in West Africa. It’s rare and is also less likely to lead to AIDS.
- HIV has three stages;
- Stage 1: This is the earliest stage, also called the “acute” stage. Symptoms may start 2 to 4 weeks after infection and may present like a fever, rash, fatigue, chills, and other flu-like symptoms. During this time, the virus quickly multiplies
- Stage 2: During this stage, HIV continues to reproduce, slowly damaging your immune system over time. You might not feel sick or have any symptoms but the virus is present and you can easily spread it to other people. This stage can last for decades.
- Stage 3: This stage is when you have AIDS. Your immune system has been severely compromised, leaving you vulnerable to other illnesses. Symptoms are fever, sweats, swollen lymph glands, chills, weakness, and weight loss.
- Since the HIV/AIDS epidemic began in 1981, more than 70 million people worldwide have been infected with the virus with approximately 35 million succumbing to AIDS.
- In sub-Saharan Africa, almost 1 in every 25 adults has HIV. the Kenya Population-based HIV Impact Assessment (KENPHIA) 2018 survey indicates that Kenya’s HIV prevalence stands at 4.9%.
“Today we celebrate that over 96% of people who know their HIV-positive status are on life saving treatment. More than 90% of those on treatment have controlled the HIV virus and therefore posing very low risk of HIV transmission”Ministry of Health, Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Dr. Rashid Aman
- HIV is not spread by mosquitoes, sweat, pools or tears. Even if mosquitoes could carry the HIV virus, they do not inject blood into your skin. No transmission of this type has ever been reported around the world.It is impossible to get HIV from coming into contact with someone’s sweat or tears. The only bodily fluids known to transmit HIV are semen, breast milk, vaginal fluids, anal fluids, and blood ( menstrual blood too).
- It is recommended to start on HIV medicine, called antiretroviral therapy or ARVs, as soon as you are diagnosed with HIV. ARVs reduce your viral load, or rather, the amount of HIV in your system. ARVs also reduce the chance of passing HIV to others. If your current sexual partner has HIV, taking a medication called pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, may help keep you safe
- You can test for HIV in the privacy of your own home with self test kits now available at Ilara Health. Of course, you can also see your doctor or visit Ilara Health LABS for a conventional blood test.
What You Should Know about Syphilis
- Syphilis can have very serious complications when left untreated, but it is simple to cure with the right treatment.
- syphilis spreads by direct contact with a syphilis sore during vaginal, anal, or oral sex. These sores are found on or around the penis, vagina, or anus, or in the rectum, on the lips, or in the mouth. Syphilis can also spread from an infected mother to her unborn baby.
- Syphilis is categorized in stages (primary, secondary, latent, and tertiary), with each stage showing different signs and symptoms.
- Primary syphilis normally has sores at the site of infection which occur on or around the genitals, around the anus or in the rectum, or in or around the mouth. The sores are usually, though not always, firm, round, and painless.
- Secondary syphilis signs and symptoms can be mild and may even go unnoticed. They include skin rash, swollen lymph nodes, and fever.
- Latent stage of syphilis has no signs or symptoms. If you do not receive treatment, you can continue to have syphilis in your body for years without any signs or symptoms.
- Tertiary syphilis comes with severe medical issues. A doctor is able to diagnose tertiary syphilis with the help of multiple tests. Tertiary syphilis can affect the heart, brain, and other organs of the body.
- A blood test is used to test for syphilis. Some health care providers will diagnose syphilis by testing fluid from a syphilis sore.
- Syphilis can be cured with the right antibiotics from your healthcare provider. However, treatment won’t undo any damage that the infection has already caused. Treatment at a later stage will still cure syphilis. However, a person may require a longer course of penicillin.
- Sometimes people confuse syphilis symptoms with other things, like pimples or rashes. This is why STD testing continues to be important especially where syphilis is concerned.
In this day and age where treatment for syphilis is available and HIV is no longer considered a death sentence, it is important to continue practicing safe sex and normalizing testing for STDs.
The CDC recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested at least once for HIV, and as often as every six months if you have unprotected sex, have multiple sexual partners, or inject drugs.
If you wish to get testing for a whole panel of STDs, including syphilis and HIV, contact Ilara Health LABS on 0102 884 138 to book an appointment. Kujua Hali Yako Ni Kujali Maisha Yako.