Copyright © Ministry of Health Singapore. All Rights Reserved.
Live life to the fullest, go on dates and enjoy a relationship – but don’t forget to protect yourself, and your loved one, from HIV. Learn how you can begin with ABCD now.
Preventing HIV is as easy as ABCD.
Find out how you can protect yourself with these four simple steps.
Abstinence from casual sex is one of the best ways to protect yourself from HIV.
HIV is mainly transmitted by the exchanging of body fluids such as blood, pre-seminal fluids, semen and vaginal fluids. Having sex within a monogamous relationship or marriage, in which both parties have been tested and found to be negative for HIV, is the best way to prevent HIV.
So remember, there is no shame in saying ‘no’.
The spread of HIV in a population is directly affected by the rate of partner change, and whether relationships are concurrent or consecutive.
Having multiple sex partners, especially concurrently, increases your risk of contracting HIV. When you have sexual relations with one person, you are also exposed to his/her previous sexual partners.
To lower your risk of contracting HIV, it’s best to limit the number of lifetime sexual partners you have or, better still, practise monogamy. A monogamous and faithful relationship can greatly reduce your risk of contracting HIV, as it means that you and your partner only have sexual relations with each other.
Even then, both you and your partner should get tested for HIV before engaging in sexual relations, as you may not know each other’s sexual histories.
Be faithful and you will find yourself staying HIV-free.
If you choose not to abstain from having sex, then you should always practise safe sex. Using a condom each time you have sex can be effective in preventing and protecting yourself from HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STI).
However, condoms can only offer protection if used
consistently and correctly. Not using condoms puts you at high risk of contracting HIV or other STIs, while improper use can also diminish the protective effect of condoms.
Protect yourself by using condoms consistently and correctly.
HIV has no obvious telltale signs, and the only way to find out if you have HIV is to get tested. The HIV test detects the presence of HIV antibodies, which are produced by the body in response to a HIV infection.
Most people will develop HIV antibodies within one to three months of infection. However, depending on the individual, it can take anywhere between one to six months for the body to produce enough HIV antibodies to be detected by a HIV test. If you suspect that you may have been exposed to HIV, get yourself tested at least one month after the possible exposure. You should also take extra precaution by abstaining from sex until you get tested.
It’s important to get tested at least once every six months if you or your partner has engaged in high-risk sexual behaviour, such as:
You should also get screened for HIV if you:
You can get tested at polyclinics, private clinics and hospitals. In addition, there are
ten anonymous HIV test sites in Singapore, where personal particulars are not required when signing up for a HIV test, offering you complete privacy and confidentiality.
Rapid HIV test kits are used in anonymous HIV testing, and results can be available within 20 minutes.
If you test positive for HIV, you should start HIV treatment as soon as possible. Although there is no cure for HIV yet, antiretroviral therapy can help slow the progression of HIV and protect your immune system, allowing you to live an active and productive life. You can also find a local HIV support group and talk to others living with HIV.
In Singapore, persons with HIV are required by law to reveal their health status to their sex partner before sexual activities, and to medical and dental personnel before any invasive procedures.
Remember: Early detection helps control the spread of HIV and allows infected individuals to seek early treatment.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is the virus that causes Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). It can appear asymptomatic for many years before it develops into AIDS in the final stages.
A person with HIV has a harder time fighting off infections because HIV weakens the body’s immune defences by destroying white blood cells that protect the body against bacterial and viral attacks. Once weakened or destroyed, these white blood cells cannot effectively defend the body against infections.
HIV infection can also worsen some common diseases and conditions, and even increase the risk of getting certain cancers. If untreated, infected persons usually die from various infections and cancers, between 1.5 – 3 years after developing AIDS.
A person infected with HIV does not display any visible signs or symptoms. However, depending on the individual, someone with HIV may experience:
The only way to know for sure if one is infected is through an HIV test.
People who engage in high-risk sexual behaviours (e.g. having multiple sexual partners or engaging in casual sex) should get tested regularly so that HIV and other STIs can be detected and treated as early as possible. Early treatment can significantly delay the onset of AIDS and allow people living with HIV to still lead active and productive lives.
At present, there is no cure for HIV. However, treatments such as antiretroviral therapy can help suppress HIV virus replication, thus delaying the spread of HIV in the body and the onset of AIDS.
HIV is transmitted by:
HIV does not spread via casual social contact such as hugging and touching, through contact with objects such as food or toilet seats, or by insect bites.
Since 2008, the number of new HIV cases reported in Singapore is estimated to be at about 450 every year. In 2019, there were 323 new cases of HIV reported in Singapore. This brings the total number of HIV-infected people living in Singapore in 2019 to 8,618, of which 2,097 have since passed away.
Of the 323 cases reported in 2019, 95% were male, and 66% were between 20 to 49 years old. About 97% contracted the virus through sexual intercourse and 52% already had late-stage HIV infection when they were diagnosed.
World AIDS Day is held on 1st December every year. It is an opportunity for people all over the world to unite in the fight against HIV, lend their support to the people living with HIV and to remember the people who have died because of it. You can show your support for the millions of people living with HIV by wearing a red ribbon.
Incorrect information on HIV may lead to stigmatising attitudes and discrimination towards people living with HIV. It can also lead to people who are at risk of HIV not coming forward to test for HIV and seeking the appropriate treatment.
Know the facts. Prevent the spread of misinformation.
Can someone who has HIV live long after being diagnosed?
Although HIV/AIDS has no cure, it can be treated. There has been tremendous progress in the treatment of HIV/AIDS over the years. A person living with HIV/AIDS can now continue to live a strong and productive life for many years. In addition, with effective treatment, it has been found that HIV cannot be spread to others. Effective treatment with antiretroviral therapy can reduce the amount of virus in the body such that HIV cannot be spread to others.
Can HIV be spread through non-sexual contact such as handshakes and hugging?
HIV is not spread by shaking hands or hugging an HIV-positive person. HIV can only be transmitted through an exchange of body fluids (e.g. semen, vaginal fluids, blood, pre-ejaculatory fluids and breast milk). It cannot be spread through physical contact unless you have an open wound which comes into contact with the body fluids of an HIV-positive person who has not been effectively treated – which is extremely rare and highly unlikely in a normal social setting. Body fluids such as sweat and tears cannot transmit HIV. In addition, HIV is not spread via body fluids such as urine and faeces. Hence, HIV is not spread through sharing of toilet seats.
Can HIV be spread through the use of shared items?
HIV is not transmitted by touch, sweat, or saliva so there is no risk of exposure from sharing a phone, tablet or computer. The virus also cannot survive on surfaces, and is very weak once it is outside of the human body. Thus, HIV cannot be spread through contact with common items such as doorknobs, elevator buttons, stair rails, water coolers and fountains, public seats, and keyboards.
Can HIV be transmitted if I share a meal or drink with an HIV-positive person?
HIV cannot be passed on through sharing food, drinks or utensils, even if the person preparing the food has HIV, as HIV is not transmitted through saliva. Even if the food contains traces of HIV-positive blood, heat from cooking and stomach acid would destroy the virus.
If someone with HIV swims in the swimming pool, are the people who swim in it at risk of getting the virus?
HIV is a sensitive virus and is easily destroyed during the water treatment process. Hence, HIV cannot be spread via water in the swimming pool.
Can mosquitoes transmit HIV?
HIV is not transmitted by mosquitoes, ticks or any other insects. This is because HIV is destroyed in the stomach of mosquitoes. In addition, the mosquito has two one-way channels i.e. the alimentary channel whereby it sucks the blood of the person it bites, and the salivary channel whereby it inoculates the saliva into the person it bites. Thus, even if a mosquito bites a person who has HIV, and then bites someone else, it cannot transmit HIV to the next person.
Is HIV transmitted via air? Can it spread through sneezing, coughing and via air conditioning?
HIV cannot survive for long in the air. When fluid leaves the body and is exposed to air, it dries up. As drying occurs, the virus, if present, becomes damaged, dies and not infectious. HIV cannot be transmitted through air and droplets.
Are homosexual men and drug users more likely to get infected with HIV than other people?
In Singapore, almost all HIV infections occur through sexual intercourse. From January to December 2019, homosexual transmission was the mode of transmission for 49% of all cases, 40% were from heterosexual transmission and 8% were from bisexual transmission.