Frequently Asked Questions

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is HIV / AIDS?

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that infects the cells of the immune system, disrupting and destroying their functions. Unless HIV is treated, it causes gradual depletion of the immune system, leading to immunodeficiency.

AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) is the latest stage of HIV infection, which occurs when the body’s immune system is severely damaged by the HIV virus. However, living with HIV does not necessarily result in AIDS. Those who live with HIV by taking medication can live a long and healthy life, even people diagnosed at the AIDS stage can recover their immune systems and lead healthy lives.

Where Is HIV Found?

HIV is found in blood, semen, vaginal fluids and breast milk. It is not found in other body secretions – saliva, tears, etc.

Conditions without the risk of infection

HIV is not transmitted in these ways:
from air and water,
Mosquito, tick or other insect bites
Contact with bodily secretions such as saliva, tears and/or sweat,
Social contact such as shaking hands, hugging, kissing,
Living in the same house, plates, glasses; common use of kitchen utensils,
Sharing the same toilet
It is not transmitted by sexual activities that do not involve the exchange and penetration of body fluids.

Methods of transmission

HIV can be transmitted from mother to baby through penetrative anal or vaginal sex, oral sex, blood transfusion, use of shared needles/injectors, or during childbirth and breastfeeding.

Prevention methods

Factors that reduce sexual transmission of HIV can be listed as follows:
* Correct use of penile and vaginal condoms during sexual intercourse.
* Avoiding unprotected sexual contact,
* Avoiding unprotected sexual contact under the influence of any substance (alcohol, drugs and/or stimulants),
* Having sexual contact with a partner whose viral load in antiretroviral therapy is too low to be detected,
* Using PrEP (Pre-exposure prophylaxis – Pre-Exposure Protection Therapy),
* Regular testing

How Do I Know If I'm Living With HIV?

The most valid and definitive way to find out if you are living with HIV is to get tested.

Tests and Diagnosis

HIV/AIDS infection diagnosis can be made in public hospitals and some private hospitals and laboratories in the northern part of Cyprus. In addition, in order to ensure anonymity during testing and diagnosis, Nicosia – Dr. Burhan Nalbantoğlu public hospital is primarily recommended.

Course and Stages of Infection

After the person’s body encounters HIV and starts living with HIV, it may give very mild symptoms that are not specific to any disease, such as fatigue, or may not give any symptoms at all. The important thing is to get tested 3 weeks after the experience we mentioned before, which is risky in terms of HIV transmission. The importance of 3 weeks here is that HIV needs a certain amount of time to be visible in blood tests. Even if the person is living with HIV, a test done too early can come back negative.

Treatment

There is no definitive cure for HIV. However, with the antiretroviral therapy (ART) method, the progression of the virus can be stopped and suppressed. This prevents people living with HIV from experiencing different health complications caused by HIV by continuing their daily lives without any problems. Standard ART consists of a combination of antiretroviral (ARV) drugs to maximally suppress HIV and stop its progression. ART also prevents the transmission of HIV to other people when used regularly.

HIV treatment works best when taken as prescribed. Missing doses and stopping and resuming therapy can lead to drug resistance while allowing HIV to replicate and progress to disease. People living with HIV in treatment should be provided with the support they need to overcome the challenges of getting regular treatment, and there should be robust systems for monitoring drug resistance.

What is viral load and ``undetectable`` status?

Viral load is a term used to describe the number of HIV in the blood. The higher the viral load, the faster a person’s immune system is damaged, increasing the likelihood of becoming more vulnerable and vulnerable to infections that the body would normally be able to fight with ease. When a person living with HIV receives effective antiretroviral therapy, the viral load drops and becomes undetectable in the blood (less than 50 copies per milliliter of blood). A person with an undetected viral load has no chance of transmitting HIV. Viral load levels should be monitored regularly to make sure HIV medications are working.

HIV & Covid-19 relationship.

Currently, there is no valid data that people living with HIV are in the risk group of COVID-19 and are more easily infected. Likewise, there is no data showing that people living with HIV show more serious and severe symptoms if they are infected with COVID-19. The elderly living with HIV or those with other health conditions (e.g. diabetes, hypertension) are at greater risk and may experience a severe episode of COVID-19, the same is true for people not living with HIV. People living with HIV with advanced infections, or those who have not suppressed their viral load (not taking antiretroviral therapy – not ART), are vulnerable to any opportunistic infections because of their weakened immune systems. In this process, we must comply with the measures set by the World Health Organization to protect ourselves and, if we have access, we must continue our antiretroviral treatment to make sure that our immune system remains strong.

HIV in the northern part of Cyprus

In the northern part of Cyprus, HIV testing is done anonymously only at Burhan Nalbantoglu Public Hospital. Persons with positive test results are registered anonymously in the system and treatment can be accessed free of charge. “Citizens” of the northern part of Cyprus cannot work in some sectors, while “non-citizens” are deported. As Think Positive, we continue to work on changing outdated practices like these. You can contact us for more detailed information about the northern part of Cyprus and HIV.

This website is funded by the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of Think Positive Initiative and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.