Important facts about HIV

Learn the truth about HIV.

11 Important facts about HIV.

More than 18% of our population is HIV-positive.“South Africa is home to the world’s largest epidemic”- Unicef

We are probably all aware of the shocking statistics like this one surrounding HIV, but real knowledge and awareness are not good enough among our younger people and South African adults probably don’t know as much as they should.

It’s easy to become complacent about, and indifferent to, the information that seeks to educate South Africans around HIV. Here are some facts about HIV that may not have hit your radar yet:


  1. HIV damages a person’s body by destroying specific blood cells, called CD4+T cells, which are vital in helping the body fight diseases.1
  2. HIV can survive in dried blood at room temperature for up to six days, or for weeks if wet, such as in used syringes or needles.1
  3. Two strains of HIV have been identified: HIV-1 (from the Central Common Chimpanzee) and HIV-2 (from the Sooty Mangabey monkey). HIV-1 is more dangerous, more easily transmitted, and is the cause of the vast majority of global HIV infections. HIV-2 is harder to transmit and is mainly confined to West Africa. 1
  4. The earliest known case of infection with HIV-1 in a human was detected in a blood sample collected in 1959 from a man in Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 1
  5. AIDS is the most advanced stage of HIV infection. AIDS is defined by the occurrence of any of more than 20 opportunistic infections or cancers, or when a person’s CD4 (T-cell) count is less than 200. 1
  6. People with HIV have a harder time than healthy individuals recognising fear in the faces of others. The trouble with emotional recognition may be caused by damage to the brain from the virus. 1
  7. Those affected by HIV are more likely to age prematurely. The prevailing theory is that early ageing is caused mainly by chronic inflammation caused by HIV even during antiretroviral treatment. 1
  8. It is predicted that HIV will continue to increase because people are living longer with the disease due to the benefits of life-prolonging treatments. As more people with HIV live longer, the opportunities for transmission increase. Additionally, many people have grown complacent about HIV. 1
  9. Timothy Ray Brown was the first person in the world to have been considered “cured” of HIV after having a stem cell transplant to treat leukaemia. Timothy Ray Brown died in September 2020.
  10. It took HIV less than 10 years to spread across the globe. 1
  11. About a month after contracting HIV, some people will develop flu-like symptoms. These symptoms often go away within a week or a month. After this initial response, a person can have HIV for years before feeling ill.
  12. South Africa was the first country in the world to offer life insurance to people living with HIV.
  13. AllLife offers specialised life insurance and disability cover to people living with HIV through their affordable, accessible policies.

Understand more about HIV and how to live a happy, healthy life when you are HIV-positive. 

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Sources: n.d. Factretriever.Com | Interesting Facts For The Curious Mind. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 10 December 2020]. n.d. UNICEF. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 10 December 2020].

We all have questions.

Below are some of the answers to the most common questions around HIV. 

What is usually the first sign of HIV?

After becoming infected with HIV, most patients only experience moderate flu-like symptoms. Typically, the illness is sudden in onset and is characterised by fever, swelling of the lymph glands, a measles-like rash all over the body, ulcers in the mouth and sometimes on the genitalia.

What are the 4 stages of HIV?

  • Stage 1: Infection – Exposure to infected bodily fluids.
  • Stage 2: Asymptomatic – HIV quickly spreads and the patient becomes seropositive for HIV antibodies.
  • Stage 3: Symptomatic – The immune system is now engaged in a constant battle with the rapidly replicating virus.
  • Stage 4: AIDS – At this stage, the patient’s CD4+ count is 200 cells per mm3 or less.

How soon can HIV be detected by a blood test?

No test can detect HIV immediately after infection. The time between initial infection and a detectable viral load is called the window period. It can take anywhere from 2-12 weeks to after exposure, to detect whether you are HIV-positive or not, depending on which testing method is used.

How long does it take to show symptoms of HIV?

Following initial infection, there is a period of intense, unchecked viral replication that occurs. It usually takes 2 to 4 weeks after infection and can last about 1 to 2 weeks, after which there tends to be a slight recovery, and the infected individual is considered to be seropositive for HIV antibodies.

How is HIV transmitted?

HIV is transmitted from one person to another through the exchange of body fluids. The main method of transmission in South Africa is through unprotected sexual activity.

Does HIV test affect life insurance?

Being HIV-positive can affect standard life insurance policies, particularly if your status changes from HIV-negative to HIV-positive within a particular age range. That’s why AllLife covers all lives. Your HIV status doesn’t prevent you from getting cover with us.

Can HIV-positive women have children?

Yes, HIV-positive women can enjoy healthy pregnancies and give birth to healthy HIV-negative babies, through the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) programme. PMTCT has been highly effective in reducing the HIV transmission risk to under 1%.

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