HIV stands for Human Immunodeficency Virus.
HIV infects a person’s immune cells. By interfering with the cells that protect us against infection, HIV leaves the body poorly protected against particular types of diseases which these cells normally can fight off easily.
Initally, a person 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 eventually need help from antiretroviral drugs to keep the HIV infection under control.
A.I.D.S stands for Acquired Immune Deficency Syndrome.
The term AIDS is now very rarely used. It is more usual to talk of ‘late-stage’ or ‘advanced HIV infection’.
Advanced HIV infection is not a single disease or condition. Instead, it is a term that describes the stage when the virus has done enough damage to the immune system to allow cancers, pnuemonia or other opportunistic infections to develop.
- HIV can infect anybody
- In 2013: 39, 169 people in the UK contracted HIV through heterosexual sex
- In 2013: 42% of people diagnosed with HIV in the UK were diagnosed late, after they should have started treatment
- There is no vaccine or cure for HIV infection
- An estimated 26, 100 people living with HIV in the UK have not yet been diagnosed
- It is far better to know your HIV status
- It is thought that the majority of new cases of HIV in the UK are spread by people who have recently acquired the infection and do not yet know their diagnosis
- HIV positive people who are successfully medicated, with a sustained undetectable viral load, are unlikely to infect others and can expect to live a near normal life expectancy
The main ways that HIV can be transmitted are:
- Through unprotected sexual intercourse
- From mother to baby (the risk is dramatically reduced with medication)
- Injecting – drug use
The following carry NO risk of HIV transmission:
- Caring for a person with HIV
- Insect bites
- Sharing cutlery or linen
- Toilet seats
- Body massage
- French kissing