Home - News & views - Five things women need to know about HIV

Five things women need to know about HIV

Angelina Namiba

Angelina’s professional experience of working in the HIV sector spans over 26 years. She’s worked on different initiatives ranging from one-to-one support and treatment and research advocacy to managing service delivery. She has lived with HIV for 30 years and is passionate about advocating for the Sexual Health and Reproductive Rights of women living with HIV.

Testing for HIV is free, confidential and easy to do.

If you test positive, it is not the end of the world. The good news is that HIV has now changed. With treatment care and support, women living with HIV can lead fulfilling lives, have relationships and start families if that is what they wish: work, study and do all the regular things that people without HIV do. If you test negative for HIV, great. You can access information and methods to remain negative. You can, therefore, continue to live your best life -whether you are diagnosed with HIV or not.

HIV is an equal-opportunity illness.

It does not discriminate and can affect anyone. Whether you are black, brown or white, young or old, you can get HIV. However, if you test positive for HIV, you are not alone. There are millions of women living with HIV around the world. There is also a lot of support available for you, led by amazing, powerful women living with HIV. Your healthcare provider will point you in the right direction to access this support and information. Accessing peer support early on in your diagnosis is invaluable. HIV is a virus, it is not a moral issue. And it certainly does not define who you are.

Treatment for HIV has changed and evolved for the better.

In the early days of the HIV epidemic, people living with HIV had to take many toxic drugs with terrible side effects because that is all that was available. However, over the years, treatment has changed so much that we now have many fixed-dose combinations. Which means many people only need to take one pill a day. And the medications now available have few side effects. We now even have long acting injectables, an injection taken only every two months. This is an amazing shift and very welcome development from the earlier medication. Even better news is the fact that we now have U=U. This stands for, Undetectable = Untransmittable. This means that, a person living with HIV, who adheres (takes their medication on time as advised and in the right doses), achieves and maintains an undetectable viral load (this means that the virus in their body is well controlled), and cannot pass HIV onto a sexual partner, or an unborn baby when pregnant.

You cannot get HIV from everyday contact with someone living with HIV.

These are the only ways you can get HIV.

Language matters.

It affects the way we think, feel, act and react. It is, therefore, important that we are mindful of the language that we use to talk about HIV and describe people living with HIV. The People First Charter has more information on this, including a list of preferred terms to use about HIV and sexual health.

Last but by no means least, remember, women living with HIV are women just like you and me. Happy International Women’s day. 😊

Previous article
Next article