The second sexually transmitted virus that it is incredibly vital to be aware of is HIV, or Human Immunodeficiency Virus. You may already have heard of it as it frequently features in worldwide health initiatives and global news. It is not only transmitted sexually however, it can also be passed on through contaminated needles, blood transfusions, and even breast milk.
Compared to the rest of the world, Iraq has a low rate of HIV infections, with around 0.1% of the population affected (9), but this doesn’t mean that it is not a risk, and the virus can be contracted by anybody.
The initial symptoms of HIV can be vague, including rashes, headaches and flu like symptoms. It is somewhat similar to syphilis in that it can lay dormant and exist in the body for years without causing any symptoms, even while the virus is attacking your immune system internally (10).
If HIV is left untreated, the virus continues to weaken the immune system, leaving the body vulnerable to unusual and severe infections, known as AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). These infections can be difficult to treat and potentially life-threatening.
However, HIV itself is actually a controllable condition. Patients with HIV have to take anti-retroviral medication daily, as this will help to reduce the number of copies of the virus that are inside the body, which decreases the risk of the patient developing AIDS, as well as reducing the risk of transmitting the virus to other people. In fact, when the virus is well controlled with medication, it is undetectable in the blood and is therefore untransmissible, meaning that it cannot be passed on (11).
Mothers with HIV can pass the virus on to their babies if they are not on the correct treatment. This is why it is important to get tested early if you think there is a possibility that you have been exposed to HIV.