‘I’m HIV+, I have AIDS.’
‘All contraception prevents STIs.’
There is unfortunately a lot of false information regarding HIV, AIDS and STIs, which can lead to unnecessary infection. Marie Stopes South Africa is dedicated to ensuring you have access – and resources – to safeguard your sexual and reproductive health.
The difference between HIV and AIDS
HIV is a virus
HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus which attacks your immune system causing it to deteriorate and not work as effectively as it should. This leaves you susceptible to contracting other viruses and infections. There is currently no cure for HIV, but it can be controlled through taking antiretrovirals (ARVs).
AIDS is a syndrome
HIV can lead the development of a condition called acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). The symptoms of AIDS are linked to the infection(s) you may have developed, which your body is unable to fight because of your damaged immune system; common infections include tuberculosis (TB), pneumonia, cryptococcal meningitis and certain cancers.
HIV doesn’t always progress to AIDS
As mentioned above, HIV is a virus that can cause a condition called AIDS. Therefore, it’s really important to understand that if you are HIV+, it won’t necessarily progress to AIDs. The advancements in treatment have the potential for an individual living with HIV to have a good quality of life.
Sexually-transmitted infections (STIs) can be spread through the exchange of infected bodily fluids e.g. semen, vaginal fluids and blood. However, STIs can also be contracted through skin-to-skin contact e.g. HPV.
There are over 25 STIs that can be contracted from unprotected sex; the most common STIs include:
- Human papilloma virus (HPV)
- Pubic lice
- Hepatitis B
The best way to avoid contracting an STI is to practice safe sex; this means using effective contraceptive methods such as male and female condoms. If you use another form of birth control, please be aware that it may prevent pregnancy but not the transference of STIs – make sure you choose the right contraceptives.
How Marie Stopes can help you
If you are worried that you may have a sexually-transmitted disease, we offer HIV and STI testing and will provide you with any support you may need.
Furthermore, if you feel there’s a possibility you may be pregnant, we also offer a pregnancy care service that will give you a definite answer.
If you are pregnant and wish to terminate the pregnancy, you don’t have to feel scared or embarrassed. Remember, you have the right to a safe abortion, which can be performed at our clinics.
In South Africa, we operate 17 centres across seven provinces and are a Section 21 non-profit organisation recognised for the quality of our clinical services and our non-judgmental, client-friendly approach.
At Marie Stopes South Africa, your sexual and reproductive health is our priority and we are happy to answer any questions you may have. You can make an appointment online or call us on 0800 11 77 85.