The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection has become an epidemic in many countries, including Malaysia. Initially, HIV infection was mainly identified among persons who inject drugs (PWID). However, the demographic of infection has changed from predominantly PWID to persons who engage in unprotected sexual activities.
According to the Country Progress Report 2019 – Malaysia , by the end of 2018, as many as 3,293 cases of new HIV were reported, with a notification rate of 10 per 100,000 (Figure 1). In Malaysia, there are 75,040 people living with HIV (PLHIV). About 90% of these PLHIV contracted HIV via sexual transmission! Of these, 14% (12,185) are unaware of their HIV statuses.
Looking at the above scenario, how are we sure that we are HIV-free? Or would you EVER have times when you are restless and doubtful over a potentially risky/accidental exposure? How do you know if you are infected with HIV? What is next if you are tested HIV positive?
We are here to help you on your doubts! FAQs below would provide you a one-stop solution to all your questions:
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is virus that targets cells in body’s immune system. If HIV is left untreated, it leads to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) which is a condition of progressive immune system failure leading to increase in the risk of getting infected by pathogens and cancers.
It is what you do, not who you are, that increases your chances of contracting HIV. Most HIV are transmitted through unprotected sexual activity, sharing of needles, syringes, or other drug injection devices. In Malaysia, HIV is mainly transmitted via sexual intercourse (90%), followed by people using drug through injection .
Here are some of the ways for HIV transmission routes:
Both receptive and insertive partner are at risk. Receptive partner has higher risk than insertive partner because of thin rectum’s lining and thus, it may allow HIV to enter the body during anal intercourse.
Most women get HIV infection from vaginal sex. HIV can enter the body through the mucous membranes lining the vagina and cervix.
Little to no risk, however risk increases if there is presence oral ulcer, bleeding gums or genital sore.
Deep, open-mouth kissing
Very rare, but transmission could occur if partners have mouth sore or bleeding gums. HIV is not transmitted through saliva.
Sharing needles, syringes and other drug injection devices
HIGH RISK!! Sharing needles or other drug injection devices may contain HIV-infected blood, and HIV can be transmitted through these bloods from one to another.
A common transmission of children getting HIV infection. HIV can be transmitted to her baby during pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding.
Occupational HIV transmission
Occupational injury caused by contaminated needles or sharp object.
Transmission from HIV-infected caregiver to infant when caregiver feeds pre-chewed food to the infant.
Various solutions are used to prevent HIV transmission. Practice safe sex with the use of condoms, avoid sharing needles / syringes with others, or take HIV prevention medicine such as Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) when you are at very high risk of getting HIV infection.
It is also important to know your HIV status upon suspicion of exposures. If you are being diagnosed with HIV infection, take preventive measure to prevent transmission of HIV to your partner, children, and others. With the current advent in medicine, HIV infection can be subdued via antiretroviral therapy (ART). ART is recommended for anyone diagnosed with HIV and the treatment should start promptly.
You cannot diagnose HIV infection based on developed symptoms.
Some people develop flu-like symptoms and some may not feel sick. People with symptoms developed within 2 to 4 weeks after exposures, these symptoms may last for a few days or several weeks. Possible symptoms include:
You can only know your HIV status by getting a HIV test.
Malaysian citizens can get a HIV test/ screening at government hospitals, health clinics / “Klinik Kesihatan” at no charge . The service provided includes health education, counselling, psychosocial support, and treatment.
Yes. You can purchase a HIV self-test device (no finger-prick required) or undergo an anonymous HIV test from the following clinic:
Dr Tan & Partners Clinic: Anonymous HIV test & OraQuick HIV Self-Test [5,6]
It is recommended for a person to undergo HIV testing at least once a year. If you are a person sexually active, it is recommended to undergo HIV testing once every six months. HIV has a long window period of 3 weeks to 6 months in which the virus may stay undetectable by current available tests.
Get accurate information about HIV. This can be done through counseling with qualified doctors at:
the Infectious Disease Division at government hospitals
Malaysian AIDS Council (https://www.mac.org.my )
Kuala Lumpur AIDS support Service (https://klass.org.my )
MyHealth KKM (http://www.myhealth.gov.my/en/anonymous-hiv-testing/ )
There is currently no cure for HIV infection. BUT with the right treatment and care, you can expect to live just as long and healthy as someone who does not have HIV.
The other group of medicines is used to fight illnesses caused by a weakened immune system. These are called medicines to cure or prevent opportunistic infections.
HIV-positive patients who begin HIV treatment on time will most likely never need to use the second group of medicines as HIV is inhibited before immune system is damaged. Hence, other possible opportunistic infections can be avoided .