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Quick Facts

1. Vaccination for high-risk male attendees to control hepatitis A outbreak Hot!

Ans: In view of the recent unusual increase of hepatitis A cases among men who have sex with men (MSM) who are infected with HIV, the Government has arranged an one-off hepatitis A vaccination programme for MSM who are attending designated public clinical services as a control measure among the population. Two doses of hepatitis A vaccines would be given at least 6 months apart.

2. Are HIV and AIDS the same thing?

Ans: No. AIDS stands for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. It is caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).

HIV attacks and destroys CD4 cells, the disease-fighting cells of the immune system. As the immune system is seriously damaged, the infected person is more vulnerable to certain cancers and a wide range of infections. These types of infections are known as opportunistic infections because they take advantage of a person's weakened immune system. When that happens, HIV infection has progressed to its final stage which is commonly known as AIDS.

3. How can I tell if I'm infected with HIV?

Ans: The only way to know if you’re infected with HIV is to get tested. Most infected people do not have any symptoms at all for years and continue to look normal and healthy. Some may have flu-like symptoms (often described as "the worst flu ever") 2 to 4 weeks after exposure. Symptoms can include: fever, tiredness, sore throat, rash, diarrhoea and swollen glands. These symptoms may last for a few days to weeks. During this time (window period), the infection may not show up on an HIV antibody test, but the person is highly infectious and can spread the virus to others. You cannot tell whether a person has been infected by his appearance, the only way to know is to get tested.

4. How do people get it?

Ans: HIV is passed on through infected body fluids such as blood, semen (including pre-cum), rectal and vaginal secretions. It may be passed on from an HIV infected person to another by sexual contact (including oral and anal sex) and blood contact (e.g. needle sharing). In Hong Kong, more than 75% of cases are infected through sexual contact and about half of the new cases reported in recent years are infected through homosexual or bisexual contact.

5. Can I get HIV from oral sex

Ans: Although the risk of HIV transmission through oral sex is far lower than that through anal sex, it is possible you become infected through giving or receiving oral sex (i.e. fellatio and rimming). The risk is higher through giving oral sex with the sex partner cumming (ejaculating) in your mouth, followed in order by giving oral sex without the sex partner cumming, and simply receiving oral sex including being blown and rimmed. The factors that cause an increase in the risk of HIV transmission include a high viral load, presence of mouth ulcers, bleeding gums, genital sores, and of other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Besides, other infections can be transmitted through oral sex. These include syphilis, gonorrhoea, herpes, warts, hepatitis A and B.

6. Can HIV be passed on through saliva, sweat or urine?

Ans: No. These body fluids do not contain enough virus to infect other persons. The body fluids which can transmit HIV are blood, semen (including pre-cum), rectal and vaginal secretions.

You cannot get HIV through casual or day-to-day contact, including a kiss on the cheek, sharing meals, or sitting on toilet seats. Besides, there is no evidence to show that mosquitoes can transmit HIV.

7. Can I get HIV from taking drugs?

Ans: HIV can be transmitted by sharing injection or snorting equipment. Moreover, the effects of recreational drugs can increase your risk for HIV infection. Being drunk or high affects your ability to make safe choices and lowers your inhibitions, which may lead you to do something like having sex without condoms or having more rough sex, which you are less likely to when sober. For example, methamphetamine (meth, ice) is a very addictive stimulant and hence an HIV risk factor, it is observed there is a strong link between meth use and HIV transmission among gay and bisexual men.

8. How long do I have to wait for an HIV test result?

Ans: A conventional HIV test (blood taking from vein) takes around 1 week for the result, whereas a rapid test (finger prick) only requires 20-30 minutes but the latter is only a screening test.

9. What are the pros and cons for me to have a self HIV test?

Ans: Some people may wish to have self HIV testing for privacy reason as it can be done by oneself at home. However, the self test is of lower accuracy in having more false negatives and false positives than the testing provided by trained workers. For example, according to the US FDA, the OraQuick® In-home HIV test only has a sensitivity of 92%. That means one false negative would be expected for every 12 results of the testing of HIV infected individuals, or in another word one case is missed in every 12 people tested with HIV. Studies have also revealed that in a low HIV prevalence setting, only 88.5% of positive results were true positives (i.e. 11.5% is false positives).

More importantly, the test is only a screening test and a reactive result has to be confirmed by laboratory-based testing using drawn blood. Furthermore, there is a lack of counselling if you do the self test and this may result in adverse consequences including whether you can correctly interpret the result and cope with a reactive result. The knowledge about HIV treatments and the availability of care may also be an issue if you are tested positive by yourself.

If the test kits are not from trustworthy sources, accompanied with correct information or stored properly, they may not be of acceptable quality. As a result, users may have incorrect diagnosis, unnecessary worries, delayed treatment and health impairment.

10. If I’ve already got HIV, can I get another kind of HIV?

Ans: Yes. This is called HIV superinfection. The new strain of HIV can replace the original strain or remain along with the original strain. Its effects differ from person to person. For some people, superinfection may cause them to get sicker faster because they become infected with a new strain of the virus that is resistant to the medicines they are currently taking to treat their original HIV infection.

11. If I’ve got a negative result, does this mean that my partner is HIV-negative also?

Ans: No. Your HIV test result reveals only your HIV status. HIV is not necessarily transmitted every time you have sex. Therefore, taking an HIV test is not a definitive way to find out if your partner is infected. Discuss with your partner about whether he has been tested before and about his risk behaviours now and in the past. Consider getting tested together.

12. What do I have to do if I get a HIV-positive result?

Ans: Advances in HIV treatment have led to a greatly improved survival of infected patients, especially when the diagnosis is made early. There is evidence that HIV treatment contributes significantly to the prevention of onward transmission via sexual contact and other transmission routes.

What you have to do is to:

  • Work out the treatment plan with your doctor;
  • Prepare for the changes in your daily life, e.g. where to put the medicines;
  • Stick to the treatment plan, discuss with your doctor if there is any side effect you cannot bear.

13. What are the benefits of HIV treatment?

  • HIV treatment has become very effective over the past few years, an infected person can lead a productive life and may live a nearly normal lifespan.
  • HIV treatment means the difference between staying well and becoming extremely ill and possibly dying early.
  • There may be side effects from treatments, but these are less severe and increasingly well managed compared to the past.

By lowering the level of HIV in the body (undetectable viral load), the chances of passing HIV on to a partner are significantly reduced. This does not mean that HIV treatment is a replacement for condoms, but it does reduce the overall risk of onward transmission.