HIV - Human Immunodeficiency Virus

What is it? 

HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system (the system inside our body that is designed to fight off most infections). Once HIV affects the immune system it's there for good.

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How is it spread?

The virus does not survive very long outside the body and reacts badly to changes in temperature or light. 

So the way it can be passed on is through exchanging bodily fluids such as:

· Sperm or vaginal fluids through having unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex. Or, sharing sex toys with someone who has HIV

· Blood through sharing injecting equipment or receiving contaminated blood donations

· Breast milk through infected mother to child. An infected mother can also pass it on to her child during pregnancy or birth

There is absolutely no evidence of the virus being transmitted through sharing loo seats, a glass or cup, swimming pools or French kissing

 

What are the symptoms?

The only way you can tell if you are HIV positive (that you have the virus) is by having an HIV test - it usually takes up to three months or more for the virus to show up in your bloodstream from the time you become infected. So relying on regular tests should not be considered safer sex. Some people may have the virus for years and look and feel very healthy, but may still be able to pass it on. Others may be affected more quickly

 

The HIV virus attacks the body’s T cells in the blood. As somebody’s number of T cells gets lower and lower, the immune system becomes weaker. This is when they may develop AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).

 

How can I get rid of it?

You can’t! There is no cure for HIV/AIDS at the moment.

However, there are drugs that can be given to help slow down the effects of the virus - but these will not get rid of the infection. 

  

To help avoid getting one at all – use a condom!

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