August 19, 2023

HIV Stories - How Antoinette, Ja'Mel, Emelinda and Tboy Got HIV

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) damages the body's immune system, making it harder to fight infections and diseases. If untreated, HIV can lead to the advanced stage of the disease known as AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome). HIV is spread through contact with certain bodily fluids from a person who has HIV, most commonly during unprotected sex or sharing injection drug equipment. There is no cure for HIV, but medication can help people living with HIV stay healthy and protect their partners.

It can take up to three months from the time of infection for a person's blood test results to show they are infected (known as the window period). During this time, a person is highly infectious. It is also possible to have HIV and not know it because the symptoms of HIV are often similar to the flu.

People living with HIV can live long, healthy lives when they get the right treatment. But stigma and discrimination can still impact a person's health and well-being.

Antoinette, Ja'Mel, Emelinda and Tboy are all HIV positive and have experienced internalized stigma as a result of their diagnosis. They have used their personal stories to create a larger dialogue around HIV and inspire others to get tested and educate themselves.

Testing and starting treatment for HIV used to be a process that could take weeks, even months. But new approaches like rapid tests are reducing the time from test to diagnosis, and helping to ensure babies are treated promptly.


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