What is HIV?

The “Human Immunodeficiency Virus” (HIV) is the virus that causes HIV-related disease and the Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. If the disease is correctly managed, people with HIV can live a long, healthy and productive life. There are people who have been living with HIV for 20 or 30 years now.

What does HIV do?

HIV particularly damages the immune system by attacking and destroying cells which are important in your defence against infections.

What is the difference between HIV disease and AIDS?

HIV disease is the stage of illness during which the HIV-positive person still has a strong enough immune system to live a healthy life. “Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome” is the stage in which the body’s immune system is too weak to fight certain infections, known as opportunistic infections e.g. TB, pneumonia and fungal infections.

Does everyone who is HIV-positive eventually get AIDS?

NO! With appropriate medication you can have a completely normal lifespan. Also even people with an AIDS-defining diagnosis can live a long life.

How is HIV transmitted?

Unprotected sexual contact; contact with infected blood (e.g. sharing infected needles); childbirth; breastfeeding.

How is HIV not transmitted?

Eating food prepared by someone who is HIV-positive; sharing cutlery and crockery; toilet seats; sharing an apartment with someone who is HIV-positive; kissing, sneezing, coughing, tears or saliva; mosquitoes or bedbugs.

How do we fight HIV?

Healthy lifestyle; diet; vitamin supplementation; regular CD4 count monitoring; attending to infections during early stages; anti-retroviral medication (after discussion and when prescribed by your doctor).

What is ARV medication?

This combination of medication reduces the number of HIV viruses in the body. By doing this the immune system can be strengthened and restored. Once your CD4 count drops below 350 your doctor will start you on ARV treatment.

Insurance policies for people with HIV?

A few companies do offer special policies for HIV-positive people. There might be additional premiums charged in such cases. See the the Help & Links page for more information.

What if both partners are positive?

It is very important to still use condoms or femidoms when having sexual intercourse. HIV-positive partners can re-infect each other which can lead to possible resistance towards ARV medication.

I am positive and pregnant. What now?

With proper treatment and intervention the chances of the baby being HIV-positive can be reduced to less than 1%. With proper treatment and monitoring it is possible to bear a normal healthy newborn, this is called mother-to-child transmission prevention programme (MTCTP).

How do I feed my newborn?

Formula feeding is the preferred manner of feeding and NOT breast feeding.

Do I have to tell my employer?

No. The Constitution of South Africa Act No 108 of 1996 Section 14 gives you the right to privacy concerning your HIV status. You have no legal obligation to disclose your HIV status to your employer or any other employee.

Can I get fired if my employer finds out that I’m HIV- positive?

No. According to the Employment Equity Act No 55 of 1998 you are protected against unfair discrimination. You cannot be discriminated against in any policy or practice if you are HIV- positive or if your employer suspects that you are HIV-positive. Your employer cannot force you to take a HIV test unless it is justified by the labour court.

Can I become a Positive Hero?

As Faghmeda says: “If you can survive the first few minutes of sheer shock of realization of your HIV status, you are already a HERO!!!” We do not make Heroes – you make yourself a Hero. As an organisation we simply give Heroes publicity to encourage others to be pro-active and to manage their health. If you are keen to share your story then please contact us with your story (including the challenges you have faced and how you have responded to these) and preferably a photo.

While wanting to become a positive hero is a brave thing to do there are a number of issues to consider (for example: implications that people will know your HIV status). Also consider other ways of helping such as really looking after yourself and being a role model in your own community. Also you can help by sharing this website or stories that you see in papers or magazines or supporting Positive Heroes on facebook.