09.05.2016 Flu symptoms after unprotected sex? Go straight to the doctor!
Spring 2016 "LOVE LIFE" campaign. Many HIV-positive people experience fever, fatigue, night sweats, swollen lymph nodes, sore throat or rash in the first few weeks after being infected. Consequently, any flu-like symptoms occurring after unprotected sex with someone of unknown HIV status have to be investigated immediately. This is the main message of the "LOVE LIFE" campaign wave running since early May.
The current wave of the campaign follows on from the autumn 2015 campaign. TV commercials, online banners and brief films on eBoards at major train stations and at the baggage carousels of Zurich and Geneva airports communicate the main message that anyone who experiences flu-like symptoms after unprotected sex should see a doctor immediately. The eBoards at the airports are aimed at raising awareness of the issue among the the important target group of international travellers: many HIV infections occur abroad, and the majority of people thus infected are men. And if they have a steady partner, these are also at risk of infection.
Film on primary infection
Existing campaign measures are supplemented by a new element – an explanatory film on HIV primary infection available on the www.lovelife.ch website. "Primary infection" refers to the first few days and weeks following infection with HIV. During this period, the viral load and the risk of passing on the infection are many times greater than in the later stages of infection. This is because the immune system has not yet formed any antibodies and the HI viruses can therefore spread unhindered at the beginning of an infection. If freshly infected persons who are unaware of their infection have unprotected sex during this period, their sex partners are at particularly high risk. Flu symptoms can be a warning signal for the newly infected – they absolutely must see to a doctor about them.
Involving physicians and pharmacy and drugstore staff
The campaign is aimed not only at the general public but also at the professionals who are the first to be consulted on flu symptoms. These include pharmacy and drugstore staff as well as physicians. They have an important role in drawing attention to the possibility of primary infection and, if necessary, recommending an HIV test or a visit to a doctor for further investigation. In the event of a positive test, immediate treatment can, depending on the circumstances, help ensure that the infection does less harm and that it can be controlled more effectively by the immune system. Posters and newspaper stickers are available for making the topic of primary infection better known among clients of counselling and other centres and patients of GPs. A fact sheet on primary infection and a brief guide to discussing the topic has been produced for physicians.
Norina Schwendener, Campaigns Section, email@example.com