What is HIV?
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks cells in the immune system. The immune system is the body's natural defence against illness. If HIV is not rteated then the immune system gets weaker and weaker until it can no longer fight off life-threatening infections and diseases. These infections and diseases are sometimes called opportunistics diseases.
A person infected with HIV is often referred to as a person living with HIV or someone who is HIV positive. In the past HIV positive people were sometimes referred to as being HIV sufferers. But many HIV positive people don't like being referred to in this way.
Is there a cure for HIV infection?
There is no cure but there is effective HIV treatment. Once a person is infected with HIV the virus remains in their body for the rest of their life.
What is the difference between HIV & AIDS?
When the immune system has been severely affected, this is sometimes referred to as the person having AIDS.
How can you become infected?
There are only a very limited number of ways that you can get HIV. You can also only get HIV from somebody, or from the secretions such as blood, that have come from someone who already has HIV.
Which HIV positive people can pass on HIV to other people?
Almost anybody who is HIV positive can pass the virus on to other people if they do any of the activities which result in their infected secretions getting into another person's body. But if a person is taking treatment, then the level of virus may be so low in their body that they are very unlikely to pass the virus on to someone else.
What are the symptoms of infection?
Most people have a short flu like illness between 2 and 6 weeks after becoming infected with HIV.
After these symptoms disappear they may not have any symptoms for many years. The virus may though begin to damage their immune system. This means that many HIV positive people don't know that they are infected until they start to become ill
If you think that you may have been infected it is usually sensible to have an HIV test to find out. In many countries testing for is readily available. It is often free or doesn't cost very much. If you have been infected you can then start treatment which will prevent you from becoming ill. Also HIV treatment can help to prevent you from passing the virus on to someone else.
In which countries are there HIV positive people?
There are HIV positive people in almost every country in the world. But in some countries there are many more infected people than in other countries. The HIV statistics show which regions of the world are most affected by HIV.