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Aids, Hiv and the test 4 it...

What is HIV?
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus and is a virus that can damage the body’s defence system so that it cannot fight off certain infections.

What is AIDS?
If someone with HIV goes on to get certain serious illnesses, this condition is called AIDS which stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.

How is HIV passed on?
There are four main ways in which HIV can be passed on:

By having vaginal, anal or oral sex without a condom with someone who has HIV.
By using needles, syringes or other drug-injecting equipment that is infected with HIV.
From a woman with HIV to her baby (before or during birth) and by breastfeeding.
By receiving infected blood, blood products or donated organs as part of medical treatment. In the UK all blood, blood products and donated organs are screened for HIV and infected materials are destroyed. This may not be the case in some developing countries and in eastern Europe, so you should avoid non-essential medical or dental treatment abroad.
You cannot get HIV through:

Kissing, touching, hugging, shaking hands
Sharing crockery and cutlery
Coughing or sneezing
Contact with toilet seats
Insect or animal bites
Swimming pools
Eating food prepared by someone with HIV
Facts about HIV and AIDS

Most people with HIV look and feel healthy for a long time so you can’t tell who has the virus just by looking at them.
There is no vaccine against HIV
There is still no cure for HIV although anti-retroviral drugs have been developed which mean that some people can stay well for longer. These don’t suit everybody
Sex and staying safe
What is safer sex?

A simple way of understanding safer sex is to see it as any sex that does not allow an infected partner’s blood, semen, pre-ejaculatory fluid - precum - or fluid from the vagina to get inside the other partner’s body.

Some kinds of sex – such as kissing or masturbation – carry no risk of HIV.

What are the riskiest kinds of sex?
Vaginal and anal sex without a condom carry the highest risk. HIV can be passed on to either partner – male or female, active or passive – during penetrative (where the penis enters the vagina, mouth or anus) sex without a condom.

How safe is oral sex?
Oral sex is where one partner uses their tongue or mouth to stimulate their partner’s genitals.

There is some risk from oral sex, but it is less risky than vaginal or anal sex without a condom. The risk can be further reduced by:

Avoiding getting semen or pre-ejaculatory fluid (precum) in the mouth, particularly if there are any cuts, sores or ulcers in the mouth
Using a condom for oral sex with a man or a dental dam (a latex square) for oral sex with a woman
What is an HIV test?
The test involves taking a blood sample, which is then checked, for antibodies to HIV. Antibodies are your body’s response to infection with a virus.

Most tests are carried out by NHS sexual health (GUM) clinics.

call the Sexual Health and National AIDS Helpline free on 0800 567 123 (UK only) for details of where you can get the test.

NHS sexual health (GUM) clinics offer free HIV testing, and screening for other infections.

All information is kept strictly confidential.

You can go to any clinic, anywhere in the country. You don’t have to use a local one and you don’t have to be referred by your GP.

You can also get the test from your family doctor/GP; the result will probably be entered in your medical records.

What if the result is HIV negative?
This means that no antibodies to HIV were found in your blood. This usually means that you do not have HIV. It can however, take the body up to three months to produce antibodies.

If you think you have been at risk less than three months ago, you might need to have a repeat test.

Remember – even if your test result is negative you can still become infected in the future if you put yourself at risk again!

What if the result is HIV positive?

This means that you do have HIV antibodies in your blood and are HIV positive. This does not tell you whether you have AIDS.

Being HIV positive means you will need to look at ways of taking particular care of your own health. It also means that you can pass on the virus to others (but only in the ways already discussed). So:

Always use a condom for vaginal, oral or anal sex.
If you inject drugs, do not let other people use your equipment.
Remember that you cannot pass on the virus through everyday social contact.
You will be offered a referral on to an HIV specialist. There are anti-retroviral drugs that can help delay the onset of AIDS and you can discuss whether or when to start these with your consultant. This decision is an important one as how well treatment works can depend on starting it at the right time. If you want more information or if you have not yet seen a consultant you can call the Sexual Health and National AIDS Helpline free (from the UK) on 0800 567 123 for more information on HIV.

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