HIV and AIDS are not the same.
AIDS: Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome – is the term used to describe a stage of HIV infection when the body is too weak to fight off a range of diseases.
You cannot catch AIDS – HIV causes AIDS and it is HIV that can be passed on.
Being diagnosed with AIDS means different things for different people. Just because someone has AIDS does not mean they will die – but it is essential to have medical care and treatment.
HIV: Human Immunodeficiency Virus – attacks the body’s immune system gradually causing damage. Without treatment, the immune system will become too weak to fight off illness and infection.
There is currently no cure for HIV. Major advances in treatment mean that many people can lead long and healthy lives, although some may experience side effects from the treatment.
HIV is present in blood, genital fluids (semen, vaginal fluids and moisture in the rectum) and breast milk.
The main ways HIV can be passed on to someone else are:
But there are ways of preventing HIV infection in all of these situations.
The Symptoms of HIV vary from person to person, People can live with HIV for years before having any symptoms. The only way to be sure if you have HIV is to have an HIV test. You cannot tell from symptoms alone.
Why take an HIV Test
The sooner you’re diagnosed with HIV, the sooner you can start treatment . Treatment (ARVs) will keep you well the virus under control by stopping it from reproducing itself. The goal is to keep levels of HIV so low that in tests the person has an undetectable viral load.
If someone with HIV is on effective treatment and has an undetectable viral load they cannot pass on HIV. Find out more via THT
There are now many quick and convenient ways to test.
HIV tests are available in lots of healthcare settings. This might be in a sexual health clinic, doctor’s surgery, hospital or private clinic, for example. In many countries, there are also places where you can be tested in your local community.
In the UK, you can get a free and confidential HIV test at any NHS sexual health or GUM (genitourinary medicine) clinic. These clinics are linked into specialist HIV services, and there will be support available to you if your result is positive.
Here are some sites that give you more information about HIV and how to get tested:
An HIV test is the only way to know if you have HIV. Early diagnosis enables better treatment outcomes and reduces the risk of onward transmission. People diagnosed late have a much higher risk of developing complex health conditions including HIV associated brain impairment.
Current treatment for HIV – antiretroviral drugs, can not cure HIV but work by reducing the amount of HIV in the body so the immune system can work normally. This doesn’t get rid of HIV completely, but with the right treatment and care, someone with HIV can expect to live a long and healthy life. It is now recommended that everyone diagnosed with HIV starts treatment straight away.
What is PrEP?
Pre-exposure prophylaxis is an HIV prevention strategy that uses antiretroviral drugs to protect people who do not have HIV but who are at high risk of contracting HIV. To be effective, Prep must be taken regularly, as directed. It does not prevent other sexually transmitted infections.
What is PEP?
Post-exposure Prophylaxis is a short-term treatment that stops HIV spreading through the body. It must be taken within 72 hours of possible exposure to HIV.
HIV Associated Brain Impairment:
Mildmay specialises in the treatment of HAND, (HIV Associated Neurocognative Disorder) impairment caused by HIV entering and affecting the brain. This is a form of severe dementia which Mildmay is able to reverse in 85% of our patients, enabling them to return to independent living. People with HAND often display symptoms that are very similar to dementia such as memory loss, confusion, loss of a sense of self, difficulty in walking, speaking or carrying out every day tasks. Mildmay’s specialised treatment, care and rehabilitation includes highly skilled medical and nursing care, treatment, rehabilitation and a combined range of therapies.
HIV in the UK:
HIV Pregnancy and Birth – In the UK with the right treatment and care, 99% of women living with HIV give birth to healthy babies without passing on HIV.
UK figures: Public Health England