Focus on prevention!


The names HIV and AIDS are often confused, possibly because both terms are used to describe the same disease. Think of AIDS as an advanced stage of the HIV infection. In a person suffering from AIDS, the immune system is compromised by the HIV virus to such a degree that he may fall ill from one or more opportunistic infections. If someone is diagnosed with one of these infections (even if his CD4 cell count is over 200), he is said to have AIDS. AIDS usually takes a long time to develop from the moment that one is infected with the HIV virus — it may take 2 to 10 years, sometimes even more.

A person who is diagnosed with AIDS will be regarded as having AIDS, even if their CD4 cell count increases again or if they recover from the illness that led to the diagnosis of AIDS.

The antiretroviral treatment administered to HIV-positive individuals inhibits the reproduction of the virus inside the body, allowing the individual to have a quality of life and life expectancy nearly equal to that of the general public. It is however imperative to follow treatment properly and to be monitored by a doctor.

How is HIV transmitted?

How is HIV transmitted?

HIV is transmitted through sexual contact, via direct contact with contaminated blood, and from mother to child during pregnancy. Body fluids where the HIV virus is present, are:

  1. Blood (including menstrual blood)
  2. Sperm, and possibly pre-ejaculate
  3. Vaginal fluids
  4. Breast milk

In order for the HIV virus to be transmitted:

  • it must be present in one of these fluids
  • it must enter the body

Sexual behaviours that may cause transmission of the HIV virus are:

  • Vaginal intercourse (penis inside the vagina)
  • Anal intercourse (penis inside the anus)
  • Oral intercourse (mouth on penis or vagina)

Other transmission routes of HIV are:

  • Needle sharing when taking injection drugs
  • Tattoos, ear piercings, etc.
  • Accidental percutaneous needle stick
  • Transfusion of contaminated blood
  • Childbirth
  • Breastfeeding

How is HIV not transmitted?

  • Saliva, tears, sweat, faeces or urine
  • Hugging
  • Kissing
  • Massage
  • Handshake
  • Insect bites
  • Cohabitation with HIV-positive individuals
  • Sharing of toilet or shower
  • Coexistence in work areas, gyms, swimming pools, restaurants, concert venues etc.

Where can you get tested for HIV?

It is important to get tested regularly (every 6 months or annually at most) to see if you are HIV positive. Testing is anonymous and confidential, free of charge and you can get the results within a matter of days. For additional information you can call the AIDS helpline of KEELPNO (Greek Center for Disease Control and Prevention) at +30 210 72 22 222

If you think you have got infected with HIV

If you have any reasons to believe that you might have had a dangerous sexual contact or you have got infected with HIV by some other way, immediately go to the nearest hospital or HIV Infection Unit (find out the one closer to you at +30 210 7222222) and ask for PEP (Post Exposure Prophylaxis). This must happen as soon as possible, within 72 hours of the time you think you might have got infected with HIV.

Caution! PEP is actually antiretroviral therapy and you must follow it for a certain period of time (it is not a one-day treatment). It would be good not using it in vain.