HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It attacks the immune system and weakens the body's ability to fight infections and disease.
HOW DO I GET INFECTED?
Through sexual intercourse, including vaginal, anal and sometimes even oral sex with an infected person.
Sharing sex toys with someone infected with HIV.
HOW DO I KNOW I MAY BE INFECTED?
Not everybody with HIV shows signs or symptoms of the infection
Some people when first infected may experience flu-like symptoms. These may include diarrhoea, headaches, fatigue, high temperature/fever, muscle aches and pains, skin rash or sore throat.
After the first stage you may not experience any symptoms for a number of years and the HIV may go undetected but during this time the virus will multiply and can still be passed to other people.
However, unless HIV is diagnosed and treated with antiviral tablets, the immune systems will be affected and eventually lead to life-threatening infections and/or cancer.
There is no cure for HIV, but there are treatments to enable most people with the virus to live a long and healthy life.
HIV treatment with antiretrovirals substantially reduces the risk of passing the virus onto someone else BUT does not cure the infection.
Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP)
PrEP is a new way of using anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) – usually used for treating people with diagnosed HIV – to stop those at the very highest risk from contracting the virus.
Recent evidence shows PrEP can be highly effective in preventing HIV infection as long as the drugs are taken regularly when people are at risk.
Post-exposure prophylaxis after sexual exposure to HIV (PEPSE)
PEPSE is a type of medication that can be taken up to 72 hours after exposure to HIV to stop you becoming infected.
If you’ve had sex without a condom, or if the condom broke during sex, you may be able to use PEPSE.
It is vital that this medication is given within 72 hours of the potential exposure to the virus, as the medication is not effective after this time. The earlier PEPSE can be given the better. If you’ve had sex with somebody who you think may be HIV positive within the last 72 hours, it’s important to get help straight away. Please don’t leave it until the 72 hours is up or nearly up.
The best way to prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is to use a condom for penetrative sex and a dental dam or condom for oral sex.
Avoid sharing needles and other equipment used for injecting drugs and piercing.
Knowing your HIV status and that of your partner is important and if you are at regular risk of potential exposure to HIV you should have a regular HIV test.