What Is HIV?

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus and affects men and women. The virus damages the body’s immune system so that over time it becomes vulnerable to illness and infections.

What Is AIDS?

AIDS (Acquired ImmuneDeficiency Syndrome) is a collection of specific illnesses and conditions because the body’s immune system has been damaged by HIV. When a person has AIDS it means their immune system is very weak and they have developed certain infection or cancers. These can be fatal.

How Is It Passed On?

HIV is mainly passed on in the following ways:

  • Through unprotected vaginal or anal sex
  • Through the sharing of needles or syringes
  • When injecting drugs
  • A pregnant woman with HIV can pass it on to her baby during birth, although there is now a very effective treatment to help protect against this
  • HIV can also be passed on through breastfeeding

What Are The Symptoms?

A flu-like illness may occur shortly after getting infected with HIV, but most people don’t notice they have become infected. Symptoms vary from person to person and occur when the immune system is so damaged that other infections begin to cause health problems.

How Is It Treated?

The only way to establish if a person has the virus is for them to have a HIV test. This can be carried out at you local GUM clinic. After discussion about the test and the consequences of the result, a sample of blood will be taken and tested. It is necessary to wait 3 months after infection might have occurred before doing a HIV test.

There is no cure for HIV. However, drugs are available to slow down the damage that HIV does to the immune system. People who are HIV positive can now stay healthy for many years with anti-HIV drugs.

Remember treatment in a STI clinic is confidential, non-judgmental and free. Staff in the clinic are trained to treat STIs in an understanding and helpful way so there is no need for you to feel embarrassed.