HIV & AIDS – Facts

There has always been a lot of misinformation around HIV and AIDS and it is really important the true facts are understood and the wrong information is not shared. You may have lots of questions about HIV like:

“Can you catch HIV from kissing?” – No

“Can you get HIV from urine on a toilet seat?” – No

“Can you catch HIV if you are on the pill?” – Yes

To find out more simple and useful facts about HIV keep reading!

Five commonly asked questions about HIV and AIDS.

1. What Is HIV and AIDS?

HIV is a sexually transmitted virus that, if left untreated, can lead to AIDS. There is no cure for HIV or AIDS but there are effective treatments for HIV which enable people to live long and healthy lives. People with HIV may have a short flu-like illness shortly after getting the virus but may not notice symptoms until after a few years. They may notice weight loss, thrush in the mouth, swollen glands in the groin, neck or arm and feeling very tired.

2. How Do You Get HIV?

The HIV virus is found in infected blood, anal, semen and vaginal fluids, as well as breast milk. It cannot be passed on through sweat, urine or saliva, which debunks the myths that you can catch HIV through kissing or sitting on a toilet seat that has been used by someone who has HIV. The most common ways a person can be infected with HIV are:

  • Through having vaginal or anal sex with someone who is HIV positive without using a condom. Barrier contraception is the only way to protect yourself from getting HIV – other contraception like the pill will not protect against transmission of the virus. Read more about STIs here.
  • Sharing syringes with an infected person.
  • During pregnancy. A mother with HIV can pass on the virus to her unborn baby, during birth or afterwards via breast milk.

It’s very uncommon to get HIV through oral sex but it could happen if the infected fluid met bleeding gums or a mouth infection.

3. What Are The Symptoms Of HIV?

Some people show no symptoms at all, but a large percentage will experience flu-type symptoms around 2-6 weeks after infection. They may get a rash, sore throat and fever, also. Once these initial symptoms pass, HIV can lie undetected for many years before showing any further symptoms. A person is infectious from the moment they have caught the virus, meaning they can pass it on to others immediately. That’s why it’s so important to get regular sexual health check-ups and to get tested if you think you might have put yourself at risk of catching the virus.

The most recent estimate suggests there were 105,200 people living with HIV in the UK in 2019. Of these, around 6,600 are undiagnosed so do not know they are HIV positive.*

4. How Can I Get Tested For HIV?

If you think you have been exposed to the HIV virus, don’t wait – head to your local sexual health clinic to arrange a test. Your blood or saliva will be tested to see if the virus is present and you may be asked to repeat the test in 1-3 weeks whether your result is positive or negative, just to be sure. If you live in England, you can also go online and order a test to take in the privacy of your own home. Click here to order yours.

5. Can HIV Be Cured?

There is no cure for HIV, sadly, but it can be treated by a wide range of medications. These medicines help to slow down and stabilise the infection, giving the body’s immune system a chance to repair itself. These medicines need to be taken daily for the rest of a person’s life and the goal is to maintain a low viral load – this means a very low level of the virus being present in your body. When HIV is successfully treated, an infected person’s viral load will become undetectable, meaning they cannot pass on the virus.

As well as treatment, people with HIV are encouraged to eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly to keep their body in tip-top shape. Because HIV affects the immune system, they will also be offered yearly flu jabs and covid boosters to protect themselves. Although there is no cure for HIV, these lifesaving medicines in combination with maintaining a healthy lifestyle can mean that those who are infected with the virus often live long and healthy lives.

For more help and support around HIV, click here to visit Terrence Higgins Trust, the UK’s leading HIV and sexual health charity. https://www.tht.org.uk/

*Source: https://www.tht.org.uk/hiv-and-sexual-health/about-hiv/hiv-statistics


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