WHAT IS HIV?
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus that damages the cells in your immune system weakening your ability to fight off infections. HIV is most commonly transmitted (passed on) through vaginal or anal sex without using a condom.
AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is the final stage of HIV infection, when your body can no longer fight life-threatening infections. With early diagnosis and effective treatment, most people with HIV will not go on to develop AIDS-related illnesses and will live a near normal lifespan.
While AIDS cannot be transmitted from 1 person to another, the HIV virus can.
There's currently no cure for HIV, but there are very effective drug treatments that enable most people with the virus to live a long and healthy life.
HOW DO YOU GET HIV?
HIV is found in the body fluids of an infected person. This includes semen (including pre-come), vaginal and anal fluids, blood and breast milk.
The commonest way for HIV to be transmitted from one person to another is through having unprotected vaginal or anal sex.
The chance of getting HIV through oral sex is very low and will be dependent on many things, such as whether you receive or give oral sex and the oral hygiene of the person giving the oral sex.
Other ways of getting HIV include:
sharing needles, syringes or other injecting equipment
transmission from mother to baby during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding
It's a fragile virus and does not survive outside the body for long. HIV cannot be transmitted through sweat, urine or saliva. You cannot get HIV from shaking hands, kissing or hugging, using other people’s cutlery or cups, sharing towels, toilet seats, or going to swimming pools.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
Most people experience a short flu-like illness 2 to 6 weeks after HIV infection, which lasts for a week or two. This illness can be like flu (with sore throat, fever, tiredness, achy joints, swollen glands and a rash) or it could be severe enough to put you in hospital.
After these symptoms disappear, HIV may not cause any symptoms for many years, although the virus continues to damage your immune system. This means many people with HIV do not know they're infected.
Anyone who thinks they could have HIV should get tested.
HOW IS IT DIAGNOSED?
The only way to find out if you have HIV is to have an HIV test.
Early diagnosis means you can start treatment sooner, which can improve your chances of controlling the virus, reduce the risk of becoming more unwell and reduce the chance of passing the virus on to others.
Here at TADIC testing for HIV is done with a blood test. The test is FREE for anyone under the age of 19.
Once tested we will be in touch within 1 - 2 weeks with your results. If your test result is negative you will receive a text. If you are positive, you will be invited into the clinic to arrange your treatment.
If for any reason, you do not hear from us 2 weeks after visiting the drop centre, then please get in touch with us.
WHAT TREATMENT IS AVAILABLE?
HIV is preventable and treatable, but it is not curable.
It is treated with drugs called antiretroviral medicines. They work by stopping the virus replicating in the body, allowing the immune system to repair itself and preventing further damage.
These come in the form of tablets, which need to be taken every day.
HIV is able to develop resistance to a single HIV medicine very easily, but taking a combination of different medicines makes this much less likely.
Most people with HIV take a combination of medicines. It's vital these are taken every day as recommended by your doctor.
The goal of HIV treatment is to have an undetectable viral load. This means the level of HIV virus in your body is low enough to not be detected by a test.
HOW TO PREVENT HIV
Anyone who has sex without a condom or shares needles is at risk of HIV infection.
There are many effective ways to prevent or reduce the risk of HIV infection, including:
using a condom for sex
post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP)
pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP)
treatment for HIV to reduce the viral load to undetectable
if you use drugs, never sharing needles or other injecting equipment, including syringes, spoons and swabs
For people with HIV, if you have been taking effective HIV treatment and your viral load has been undetectable for 6 months or more, it means you cannot pass the virus on through sex.
This is called undetectable=untransmittable (U=U).