UNIVERSITY OF THE WITWATERSRAND, JOHANNESBURG

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the main ways that one can be infected with HIV?

Unprotected penetrative sex with someone who is infected.
Injection or transfusion of contaminated blood or blood products, donations of semen (artificial insemination), skin grafts or organ transplants taken from someone who is infected.
From a mother who is infected to her baby; this can occur during pregnancy, at birth and through breastfeeding.
Sharing unsterilised injection equipment that has previously been used by someone who is infected.

Can I get HIV from deep kissing with HIV positive person?

Deep or open-mouthed kissing is a very low risk activity in terms of HIV transmission. There are very low quantities of HIV in the saliva but bleeding throught the gums, etc may place you at risk. 

Can I become infected with HIV through normal social contact/activities such as shaking hands/toilet seats/swimming pools/sharing cutlery/kissing/sneezes and coughs ?

No. HIV is not an airborne, water-borne or food-borne virus, and does not survive for very long outside the human body. With normal social activities/contact there is no risk of transmission.

Are women who have sex with women at risk of contracting HIV?

Any contact with sexual fluids which may be infected or unprotected oral sex may place you at risk to contracting HIV.

How can oral sex be safe?

Protected oral sex is achieved through the use of a condom or a dental dam which creates a barrier that prevents contact with sexual fluids.

Is there a risk of contracting HIV when having a tattoo, body piercing or visiting the barbers?

It is your responsibility to ensure that instruments are sterilised before they are used on your body, remember this is your life. You will be at high risk of contracting HIV, if the previous client was HIV positive and blood still remains on these instruments.

Can I become infected with HIV if I inject drugs and share the needles with someone else, without sterilising them?

Yes, if HIV infected blood remains within the bore (inside) of the needle, anyone who then shares the same needle will intravenously flush-in HIV into their bloodstream.

What type of HIV tests are available for Wits community?

Rapid HIV antibody test: Is an HIV enzyme immunoassay (EIAs), used to detect the HIV antibodies (antibodies produced by HIV-host immune system). It is used as preliminary test, if Rapid HIV antibody test is reactive .i.e. test positive, a second test is required to confirm the result. It can take some time for the immune system to produce enough antibodies to be detected by a Rapid HIV antibody test. This time period is refered to as a “Window period” and can vary from person to person. Most people will have a window period of 3 months from the time of exposure, while others might take more than 3 months. When tested negative for the first 3 month window period, it is necessary to test again after 3 months or more.

Other HIV test commercially available on the market?

HIV RNA test: Detects the HIV virus directly. The time between HIV infection and RNA detection is 9-11 days. Because of the high cost to carry out HIV RNA test, it is less used compare to Rapid HIV antibody test.

What is a viral load test?

The viral load test is a quantitative measurement of HIV nucleic acid (RNA), reported as a number of HIV copies in a milliliter (copies/mL) of blood. It indicate the severity of viral infection and the progression of infection when monitored regularilly. High viral load ranges between 5,000 to 10,000 copies/mL during treatment and low viral load usually ranges between 40 to 500 copies/mL.

What is a CD4 count?

CD4 count is a quantitative measurement of CD4 cells in drop of blood, reported as number of CD4 cells in a milliliter (cells/mL) of blood. This then is translated to an amount of cells available to the immune system, to fight all other opportunist infections that an HIV positive person may be exposed to. CD4 count of less than 200 cells/mL means that you are at risk and must be on Antiretroviral Treatment (ART).

What do I do, if I tested HIV positive?

Keeping Yourself and Others Healthy, Emotional Support, Proper Medical Care, and Healthy Habits. See more information under Treatment