HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus)
There is an entire section of this website dedicated to HIV, if you are looking for detailed information please visit this section. However, this page will give you an overview of HIV.
What Is It?
HIV is a virus that copies itself into the cells of your immune system. These cells remain infected for the rest of their life. Currently, there is no way to remove the HIV from the cells of your body that it has already infected. However, medication exists which slows the rate at which HIV is able to infect further cells within your body.
As HIV damages the immune system and this damage takes a considerable amount of time to occur there may be no direct symptoms of the HIV infection. However, a person living with HIV may have symptoms of other infections as a result of their weakened immune system.
There are only four fluids in which HIV can survive in high enough viral loads for it to be passed from person to person. These are:
In order for HIV to be transmitted there must be a series of things in place (QQR):
There are three main ways in which HIV is generally transmitted:
HIV cannot be transmitted by hugging, sharing cups, sleeping in the same bed, kissing, massaging, talking, going out drinking, smoking or generally hanging out with someone who is living with HIV.
Condoms can dramatically reduce the risk of HIV transmission during sexual activity as they create a barrier that HIV cannot pass through. They may be used for penetrative and/or oral sexual activities. Female condoms and glyde dams can also be used to reduce the risk of HIV transmission.
As HIV is present in the blood of a person living with HIV here are some points to be aware of:
As a woman living with HIV will carry the virus in her breast milk, ingestion of infected breast milk carries a risk of transmission.
If you think you have been at risk, you can have a full sexual health screening in your local STI clinic and to receive treatment if required.
Whilst there is no cure for HIV, once your viral load has been assessed you may be offered anti-viral drugs, if required, which will help to control the viral load in your system.