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AIDs/HIV

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus.

12 Jul 2018

Understanding HIV/AIDS

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It is an incurable virus that attacks the immune system, destroying essential white blood cells that protect the body from bacteria, viruses and other harmful microorganisms. This makes it harder for the body to fight infections, and increases the severity of common conditions and diseases, including cancer.

Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is the final stage of HIV infection.

For figures on HIV/AIDS prevalence in Singapore, view our latest update.

How HIV is transmitted

HIV is most commonly transmitted through the act of unprotected sex with a person with HIV, but it can also be transmitted by:

  • Sharing injection needles or piercing instruments (e.g. tattoo guns or acupuncture needles) with a person with HIV

  • Receiving infected blood or blood products (e.g. blood transfusion, organ transplant)

  • During pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding


HIV cannot be transmitted by:

  • Hugging, touching or kissing

  • Insect bites

  • Contact via objects such as shared food or toilet seats

Symptoms of HIV/AIDS

Symptoms of HIV vary from person to person, and may differ depending on the stage of infection. Early symptoms include:

  • Tiredness

  • Weight loss

  • Prolonged fever

  • Skin rash

  • Night sweats

  • Persistent diarrhoea

  • Lowered resistance to infections

You cannot tell if someone has HIV just by their appearance. The only way to know for sure is to take an HIV test.

Risks of HIV

HIV can take up to 10 years to develop into AIDS without medical intervention. If left untreated, a person will usually die between 1.5 and 3 years after developing AIDS.

Protecting against HIV

  • Be faithful to your partner and do not engage in casual sex

  • Be honest about your sexual history with potential new partners, and consider going for a screening together if you are unsure about your HIV status

  • Practise safe sex by using condoms, which provide at least 90% protection from HIV

  • Visit a reliable service provider who uses clean, sterile needles for any tattoos, piercings or injections

  • Accept only HIV-screened blood for transfusion

What to do if you think you have HIV

Undergoing HIV screening is the only way to know if you have HIV.

Most clinics in Singapore offer HIV screening as a routine service. Some can provide results in as little as 20 minutes. Others provide anonymous screening services. Regardless of where you go, your results will be kept strictly confidential.

If you have multiple sexual partners or engage in casual sex often, you should always go for regular screenings so that any STI can be detected and treated as soon as possible. Early intervention is essential for the optimal management of HIV.

What to do if you have HIV

Under the Infectious Disease Act, it is an offence to hide a positive HIV status from a partner before sexual intercourse.

If you believe or know that you have HIV/AIDS or are at risk of contracting it, you must:

  • take reasonable precautions to protect your partner (e.g. by using condoms);

  • go for HIV testing to confirm you do not have HIV; or

  • inform your partner of the risk of contracting HIV.

Treatment for HIV

While there is no cure for HIV, anti-retroviral therapy can help to improve the immune system and suppress the virus in your system to undetectable levels. This delays the spread of HIV and the onset of AIDS.

People with HIV taking anti-retroviral therapy are now likely to have a near-normal life expectancy.

 

Frequently asked questions on HIV/AIDs


What is HIV and how is it connected to AIDS?

HIV is an incurable virus that attacks the immune system, making it harder for the body to fight infection. Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is the final stage of HIV infection. Left untreated, AIDS is fatal.

How does HIV spread?

The most common cause of HIV transmission is unprotected oral, vaginal or anal sex with a person with HIV. Other causes include:

  • infected blood transfusions;

  • ·needle sharing; or

  • exposure during pregnancy or childbirth in a person with HIV.

 

HIV is not transmitted through:

  • casual contact such as hugging and touching;

  • inanimate objects such as dishes or toilet seats; or

  • mosquito bites.

How long will it be between infection and the onset of symptoms?

Not everyone will have symptoms after being infected with HIV. Flu-like symptoms, including fever, skin rash and tiredness, may appear between 2-4 weeks after infection. If you are concerned about your HIV status, the only way to know for sure is to go for a HIV screening.

What should I do if I suspect I’ve been exposed to HIV?

Undergoing a HIV screening is the only way to confirm your HIV status. Regardless, if you suspect you may have come into contact with HIV, you must take reasonable precautions to protect your sexual partner (e.g. by using condoms) and/or inform them of the risk in engaging in sexual intercourse with you.

Should I tell my partner that I have been diagnosed with HIV?

Yes, you must tell your partner if you have been diagnosed with HIV before engaging in sexual intercourse. It is an offence not to under the Infectious Diseases Act.

How is HIV treated?

While there is no cure for HIV, anti-retroviral therapy can help to improve the immune system and suppress the virus in your system to undetectable levels. This delays the spread of HIV and the onset of AIDS.

How can I prevent HIV?

The most effective way to prevent HIV infection is to remain faithful to your partner and avoid engaging in casual unprotected sex.

If you have multiple sexual partners or engage in casual sex often, you should use condoms to reduce your risk of HIV infection.

How common is HIV in Singapore?

View the latest statistics of HIV cases and related deaths in Singapore.

Where can I go for HIV screening?

HIV screening is available at Department of Sexually Transmitted Infections Control Clinic (registration is required) or at any private/poly clinic.

Where can I go for anonymous HIV screening?

Anonymous screening is available at several private clinics in Singapore.

Where can I go for rapid HIV screening?

Only clinics that have undertaken a Ministry of Health training workshop on rapid HIV screening can offer this service. Please contact your preferred clinic in advance to check.

Where can I find more information on sexually transmitted infections?

For more information on sexually transmitted infections, visit the Department of Sexually Transmitted Infections Control Clinic website


For more information

  • 1800-223-1313 (Health Promotion Board)
    (65) 6256 6011 (Communicable Disease Centre)
    (65) 6254 0212 or info@afa.org.sg (Contact Action for AIDS Singapore)
    (65) 6293 9648 for appointments (Department of Sexually Transmitted Infections Control Clinic)
    1800-252-1324 (Confidential counselling)