What is HIV?
HIV is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system-the body’s defence against diseases. The latest research suggests that between 70 and 90 per cent of people may experience symptoms of infection a few days after having been infected. Three symptoms occuring together: fever, rash and a severe sore throat should always be considered a potential indicator of HIV infection. These symptoms usually disappear within two or three weeks. Some people may not experience these early symptoms. In all cases, without effective treatment the immune system will become very weak and no longer be able to fight off illnesses.
Are HIV and AIDS the same?
No. When someone is described as living with HIV, they have the HIV virus in their body. A person is considered to have developed AIDS when the immune system is so weak it can no longer fight off a range of diseases with which it would normally cope.
Is there a cure for HIV?
No, but 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 in preventing AIDS.
Living with HIV
What’s it like living with HIV?
If people with HIV are diagnosed early and respond to treatment they can be healthy, work and have relationships like anyone else and have a long life expectancy.
Coming to terms with an HIV diagnosis and getting used to treatment can be very difficult however, and people living with HIV will often need support from healthcare providers, friends and family, employers and support organisations. Read real stories from people living with HIV talking about their experiences.
Why do people find it hard to tell others they’re HIV positive?
People living with HIV may find it hard to tell others about their condition as they worry that people will reject them, or they will experience prejudice from friends, family and colleagues. People living with HIV can also experience discrimination in their workplace, in healthcare settings (for example GPs and dentists), from members of their local community and through the media.
HIV prejudice is often the result of ignorance about how HIV is passed on and unfounded fear of becoming infected. Encouraging those around us to talk about HIV and find out the facts can help overcome this.
How is HIV passed on?
HIV can be passed on through infected blood, semen, vaginal fluids or breast milk. The most common ways HIV is passed on are:
* Sex without a condom with someone living with HIV
* Sharing infected needles, syringes or other injecting drug equipment
* From an HIV-positive mother (to her child) during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding
Can you get HIV from oral sex?
Oral sex carries a much lower risk than vaginal or anal sex, but HIV can still be passed on through cuts or ulcers in the mouth if they come into contact with infected bodily fluids.
Can you get HIV from kissing?
No. HIV cannot be passed on through:
* Kissing or touching
* Spitting, coughing or sneezing
* Toilet seats, swimming pools, or shared facilities or utensils
Can women living with HIV still have a baby?
Yes. HIV can be passed from mother to child, but there are steps that can be taken to reduce the possibility of the child contracting HIV to less than one per cent, including giving the mother and child antiretroviral HIV drugs, delivering the child by Caesarean and not breastfeeding the baby.
Could I get HIV?
If you are sexually active or share needles you could be at risk from getting HIV. Although anyone can become infected, some communities in the UK have higher rates of infection, such as gay and bisexual men and Black African men and women.
How can I protect myself from HIV?
Always use a condom when having vaginal or anal sex. You also may want to use a condom or dental dam during oral sex although the risk of transmission of HIV is much lower. Always use a condom that carries the European CE safety mark. You can get free condoms from a family planning or sexual health clinic. Never share needles, syringes or any other injecting equipment.
What do I do if I’ve put myself at risk?
If you think you have placed yourself at risk from infection by HIV you can ask for a free and confidential test at your local sexual health clinic.
NAT works in partnership with Freedom Health.
Disclaimer: NAT is not responsible for any of the views or advice provided on the Freedom Health website.
If you are within 72 hours of an incident of possible exposure to HIV, ask for PEP (Post Exposure Prophylaxis) treatment from a sexual health clinic or at your nearest hospital accident and emergency department. PEP treatment can stop you becoming infected with the virus after you have been exposed to HIV. The sooner treatment is begun the higher the probability the treatment will be effective.
World AIDS Day
World AIDS Day is 21!
Twenty-one years ago, a summit of health ministers realised that a united global effort was required to halt the spread of HIV. As a result, World AIDS Day emerged as the first international health day in December 1988.
The aim of World AIDS Day is to bring to people’s attention the worldwide challenges and consequences of the epidemic and ultimately, preventing the spread of HIV and improving the lives of people living with the virus.
Each year the campaign is an opportunity for organisations throughout the world to highlight the HIV pandemic in order to raise awareness and bring about change.
In the UK, the theme of World AIDS Day 2008 is Respect & Protect.
The UK theme is inspired by the UNAIDS and World AIDS Campaign ongoing international theme of Leadership. The international theme is developed as an overall theme which each country is encouraged to adapt to suit more specific issues around the epidemic in their region.
Each year NAT translates the international theme into a slogan to reflect HIV issues in the UK, developing a theme and call to action relevant to HIV in the UK, and producing new and unique visuals and materials to accompany the theme. By consulting young people, people living with HIV and partner organizations, Respect & Protect translates the global theme of Leadership for a UK audience, setting out an agenda for individuals to take the lead in their own life.
Respect & Protect is inclusive and highlights the responsibility everyone has to transform attitudes to HIV and encourage actions that stop its spread.
For more information about the international theme for World AIDS Day visit the World AIDS Campaign website
What is NAT’s role in World AIDS Day?
NAT has played a coordinating role for World AIDS Day in the UK since 1988. Each year, we work with people living with HIV and other organizations to develop an appropriate theme for World AIDS Day in the UK, design posters and information resources and develop and manage the World AIDS Day website, the main source of information for World AIDS Day in the UK.
Information on World AIDS Day events going on throughout the UK can be found on the events section of the website. World AIDS Day posters, leaflets, red ribbons and other campaign materials produced by NAT are available at our online shop and are displayed in a wide range of community settings including health centers, youth clubs, schools and GP surgeries around the country.
Why do we wear red ribbons to mark World AIDS Day?
The red ribbon is worn as a sign of support for people living with HIV. Wearing a red ribbon for World AIDS Day is a simple and powerful way to challenge the stigma and prejudice surrounding HIV and AIDS that prevents us from tackling HIV in the UK and internationally.
The red ribbon has been an international symbol of AIDS awareness since 1991. The Red Ribbon Project was created by the New York based organisation Visual AIDS, which brought together artists to create a symbol of support for the growing number of people living with HIV in the US.
The red ribbon is the result of collaboration between community artists who wanted to create a non-copyrighted image that could be used as an awareness-raising tool by people across the world.