What is HIV

HIV (AKA ‘Human Immunodeficiency Virus’) is a virus that damages the cells in your immune system and weakens your ability to fight everyday infections and diseases, such as the common cold.

What is AIDS.

AIDS (AKA ‘Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome’), is the term used to describe a number of potentially life-threatening infections and illnesses that can occur when the immune system has been severely damaged or weakened by the HIV virus. AIDS is not infectious, but HIV is.

A future with HIV.

Only severe cases of HIV lead to AIDS. So not all people who have HIV will get AIDS as a result. HIV is not curable, but an early diagnosis and the choice of many treatments can allow people with the virus to live long and healthy lives.

How HIV can be transmitted.

Contrary to some myths, HIV is not easy to pass from person to person. It lives in blood and some bodily fluids so in order for you to get HIV the infected bodily fluids of someone with the virus have to get into your blood. HIV is most commonly transmitted by having unprotected penetrative sex with someone that has HIV, but it can also be transmitted by sharing needles/syringes or sex toys with someone that has it. It can also be transmitted from parent to baby if the parent who gave birth has HIV. The chance of getting HIV from oral sex is very low compared to unprotected penetrative sex, but is not impossible, and increases if the person with HIV has poor oral hygiene, or has any mouth ulcers, sores, or bleeding gums. HIV can NOT be passed through sweat or saliva. HIV Can NOT be passed through the air like colds and flu. HIV can NOT be passed through activities such as kissing, sharing baths towels or cutlery or using public toilets and swimming pools. HIV is NOT carried from animals (such as mosquitos) to humans, neither can you contract it from being bitten, spat at or sneezed on.

Symptoms of HIV.

The most common symptom of HIV is a short flu-like illness that usually lasts 2 to 6 weeks after the initial infection period of 1 to 2 weeks. Since these symptoms are similar to the flu, many people with HIV may not know that they’re infected.

HIV Testing

If you think you may have, or are at risk of having HIV, you need to get yourself tested as soon as possible. You can find your nearest HIV testing clinic here.

You might also be eligible to get a free HIV test kit delivered discreetly to your home. You can see whether you’re eligible and order a test kit online here.

Preventing HIV

Anyone who has sex without a condom or shares needles is at risk of HIV infection. There are many effective ways to prevent or reduce the risk of HIV infection, including:

  • Using a condom for sex
  • Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) – a treatment that can stop an HIV infection after the virus has entered a person’s body. It should be taken as soon as possible after exposure but within 72 hours.
  • Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) – a treatment that can be taken to reduce the risk of getting HIV. PrEP doesn’t stop the transmission of other STIs.
  • Treatment for HIV to reduce the viral load to undetectable – if you are HIV positive, speak with your GP for further advice about support and treatment
  • If you use drugs, never sharing needs or other injecting equipment (such as syringes, spoons or swabs)

Support for those living with HIV.

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