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What is HIV?

What is AIDS?

How do people get HIV?


now Do you k ? the facts

Most people will have heard of HIV and AIDS. These are words that we often see in the newspapers or hear on TV, but do you know the facts about HIV and AIDS and did you know that the main way in which people become infected with the HIV virus is through unprotected sex? That means not using a condom.
HIV is here as much as it ever was and the number of new infections continues to rise every year. In fact, there are currently over 70,000 people living with HIV here in the UK and worldwide there are over 40 million people who have HIV. Despite what you may have heard, HIV is not a gay disease or an African disease, It is something that can affect anyone whether we are male or female, young or old, gay or straight, black or white, rich or poor. Although there are now drug treatments available that can help keep the levels of HIV virus in someones body at a low level and which help many people remain healthy for a long time, there is, as yet, no cure or vaccine for HIV.

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It is a virus that attacks the bodys immune system by attaching itself to the cells that help to protect us from illness and keep us healthy.
If left untreated, the HIV virus eventually kills off these cells and weakens the immune system so much that it is unable to fight off infections and other illnesses. HIV can be transmitted sexually. In fact, of the 40 million people infected with HIV in the world, the vast majority were infected from having unprotected sexual intercourse with another person who had the virus.

AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. AIDS is the term that describes what happens to someone who has had HIV for some time and whose immune system is so damaged by HIV that illnesses that would otherwise be easily fought off can take hold and affect them (these are called opportunistic infections).
These illnesses may include rare kinds of cancers, types of pneumonia, brain diseases and bacterial/ fungal infections. HIV and AIDS are not the same thing. Someone who has HIV can live for many years before getting an AIDS diagnosis. You cant catch AIDS and people do not die from HIV but from an AIDS related illness.

When a person is infected with HIV, the virus can be found in many of their bodily fluids. However, in fluids like saliva, sweat and urine the levels of virus are so low and the quality of virus so poor that there is absolutely no chance of being infected with HIV by coming into contact with them.
So we know that you cannot be infected with HIV from: Kissing, hugging and touching someone who has HIV Sharing cups/ glasses and crockery with someone who has HIV From eating food prepared by someone who has HIV From toilet seats From insect bites Continued over page>

How do people get HIV?

The only bodily fluids where the level and quality of HIV is high enough and strong enough to be infectious are: Blood Vaginal Fluids Semen (cum) Breast Milk

How would I know if I had HIV?

Coming into contact with these bodily fluids is not, in itself, a risk in terms of infection. There has to be route of transmission for these fluids to get into our blood stream. The main ways in which people are infected with HIV are: Unprotected sex (i.e. sex without a condom) with someone who has HIV Sharing needles and syringes for taking drugs (e.g. heroin, steroids) with someone who has the virus From mother to child - although pregnant women who have HIV will be given advice on the best way to not pass the virus on to their baby - which may include advising the mother not to breast feed

The simple answer is you wouldnt. You cannot tell by looking at someone whether they have the virus or not. An infected person may feel perfectly well for years and could infect other people without even thinking that they may have the virus. The only way to know for sure is by having a blood test. This blood test can detect HIV a few weeks after infection.

Can I become infected with HIV from any type of sex?

Making sex safer

We know that many of the high-risk activities in terms of possibly becoming infected with HIV are sexual activities.
Particularly high-risk activities are vaginal penetrative sex and penetrative anal sex - where the penis enters the vagina or rectum. This applies to both men and women, gay or straight and whether you are the person being penetrated or the person penetrating (the giver or receiver). Oral sex does carry some risk of infection but this is much lower than penetrative sex. The factor that could increase the risk of infection from oral sex is the general state of the mouth and throat. If there is damage from bleeding gums, mouth ulcers or from a bacterial Sexually Transmitted Infection (e.g. Syphilis, Gonorrhoea or Chlamydia) then the risk is increased. Oral sex performed on a man (blow job) is higher risk than oral sex performed on a woman (going down).

The majority of people infected with HIV have been infected through having unprotected penetrative or oral sex.
If used correctly and consistently, condoms are an effective barrier to the HIV virus. They can also help protect against many other Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) including Gonorrhoea, Chlamydia and Syphilis. There are many types of condom available finding out which you prefer can be fun. There are flavoured condoms that can be used for oral sex on a man and dental dams that can be used to prevent infection from oral sex on a woman. Condoms are free from most sexual health services. Knowing that HIV can be passed from one person to another by having unprotected sex can help us to protect ourselves and our partners from infection. Sex can be safe and pleasurable at the same time - using a condom means we can have sex and enjoy it free from worry about HIV and other infections.

Where to go for help and support about HIV

You can get information about HIV and HIV testing from any sexual health clinic contact NHS Direct on 0845 4647 to find the clinic nearest to where you live. Your local clinic is: