Chapter 18: Sexually transmitted infections
STIs that affect the whole body
HIV infection and AIDS
HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system. This is the part of our bodies that
fights disease. HIV infection makes it more difficult for our bodies to fight off illness,
which we are usually doing all the time. People with HIV can become sick very easily
with diseases such as diarrhea, pneumonia, tuberculosis, cancer, and other infections.
HIV cannot be cured, but it can be treated with medicines so the person does not get
sick as easily. A person who is able to get treatment, eat well, and care for her body,
mind, and spirit can live a much longer and healthier life.
HIV spreads when infected blood, breast milk, wetness from the vagina, or semen of
someone who has HIV gets into another person’s body. This happens mainly through:
sex with someone
who has HIV.
an infected mother
to her unborn child.
dirty needles, instruments
or cutting tools.
In places where blood has not been tested for HIV, people can also get HIV
from a blood transfusion. Sometimes mothers with HIV also pass HIV to their
babies through breast milk (see page 293).
Signs of HIV and AIDS
People with HIV may not have any signs for a long time, up to 10 years. And even
without signs of illness, they can still spread HIV to others. The only sure way to
know someone has HIV is with an HIV test.
Someone with AIDS has lost her ability to fight infections so much that she
develops many illnesses, including serious and rare illnesses no one usually gets
without HIV, such as Kaposi's Sarcoma (a cancer). Another sign of AIDS is a blood
test that shows the immune system is very weak.
To prevent the spread of HIV, men and women should:
• be tested for HIV.
• get other infections treated.
• use condoms with any sex partner who has HIV or
whose HIV status they do not know.
• not use syringes, needles, or other tools that could
be dirty. Only cut skin with sterilized tools (see
page 59). This includes the tools used for piercings,
acupuncture, tattoos, scarring, or circumcision.
• get treatment for HIV.
Two people who are
both HIV negative and
completely faithful to
each other can have sex
without using condoms
and not get HIV from sex.
A Book for Midwives (2010)