What does HIV stand for and how is it passed on?
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that damages an infected person’s immune system. HIV is found in sex fluids and the breast milk of an infected person. It is a fragile virus and does not survive outside the body for long. HIV weakens a person’s immune system and over time this becomes increasingly damaged if a person is not on treatment. When HIV damages a person’s immune system to a very weak point then they may develop AIDs (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) due to having a collection of illnesses caused by the virus.
There are 3 main ways of passing HIV from one person to another, often referred to as routes of transmission. The main 3 routes of HIV transmission include:
- Unprotected penetrative sex (penetrative sex without a using a condom)
- Sharing injecting equipment
- From mother to baby during pregnancy, during birth delivery and/or breastfeeding.
Most people get HIV through unprotected penetrative sex!
There are lots of myths about how people can get HIV but the simple fact is the most common route of transmission for HIV being passed from one person to another is from having unprotected penetrative sex (vaginally and/or anally). Figures from Public Health England in 2013 showed that 95% of those diagnosed with HIV in the UK got HIV through sexual contact.
Condoms are the only barrier to stop HIV being passed from one person to another when having penetrative sex!
HIV like other Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI’s) can be prevented when people practice safer sex and use condoms. If you have sex without using a condom then you risk picking up an STI including HIV. For more information on specialist services, safer sex, relationships and where to get free condom’s through C-Card go to the sexual health section on our website.
Know your HIV status!
Having unprotected penetrative sex carries a risk of transmitting HIV from one person to another. Everyone has an HIV status. These statuses are HIV positive, HIV negative and untested.
- If someone tests HIV positive they have the HIV virus in their body.
- HIV negative means a person does not have the virus in their body.
- Untested. If you have had unprotected sex and have not had an HIV test then you are untested.
Early testing for HIV means better treatment outcomes if you are HIV positive. The treatments available mean that you can receive much better options and drugs that can suppress or slow down the rate at which HIV develops. There is no cure for HIV however treatment can keep the virus under control and the immune system healthy. People on HIV treatment can live a healthy, active life, although they may experience side effects from the treatment. If HIV is diagnosed late, treatment may be less effective.
An HIV test is a simple blood test.
There are two simple HIV testing options available to find out your HIV status. Point of care (a service that can provide a free confidential test) is a simple finger prick that draws out a tiny amount of blood for testing and can give results immediately at the same time of testing if the virus is detected. A second test is done in a laboratory. A lab sample test takes blood that is sent off to a laboratory and results are sent back once a thorough analysis is done to detect the HIV virus.