What is HIV?
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus.
HIV infects and gradually destroys an infected person’s immune system, reducing their protection against infection and cancers. You need to have been infected with HIV to develop AIDS.
Without HIV treatment and care, people with HIV will experience damage to their immune system and will develop AIDS-defining illnesses at some point in the future.
AIDS stands for ‘acquired immune deficiency syndrome’. It means a collection of illnesses (‘syndrome’) caused by a virus people pick up (‘acquire’) that makes their immune system get weak (‘immune deficiency’). You cannot get an AIDS diagnosis unless you are already HIV positive.
Initially, someone living with HIV may show no symptoms of HIV infection as their immune system manages to control it. However, in most cases their immune system will need help from anti-HIV drugs to keep the HIV infection under control. These drugs do not completely rid the body of HIV infection.
How is HIV transmitted?
HIV is not passed on easily from one person to another, especially compared to other viruses. That’s because HIV is present in body fluids (e.g. semen, vaginal fluids, breast milk, blood). So for HIV to be passed on, the body fluids of someone who is already infected have to get into an uninfected person’s body and then into their bloodstream.
Other body fluids, like saliva, sweat or urine, do not contain enough of the virus to infect another person.
The main ways that HIV can be transmitted are:
- through sexual intercourse and other sexual activities
- from mother to baby
- from blood to blood
- sharing injecting equipment
Find loads more information about HIV, how it is transmitted, when testing is most effective and how it works, by visiting the National AIDS Trust website.
It starts with me… If we all test, we can help stop HIV.
Need to speak to someone
Call 0300 303 2880 to book an appointment or use our service finder to locate your nearest clinic.