FAQs HIV & AIDS. What is HIV? A virus that reduces the effectiveness of your immune system, meaning you are less protected against disease.

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1 HIV & AIDS What is HIV? A virus that reduces the effectiveness of your immune system, meaning you are less protected against disease. What does HIV stand for? Human Immunodeficiency Virus Where did HIV come from? Most scientists believe the virus is a variation of SIV, a very similar virus that affects the immune systems of monkeys and apes. How the virus passed from apes to humans is unknown but a possible answer is the eating of monkey and ape meat What does AIDS stand for? Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. To AcQuire is to get or catch. HIV is something that you can only get from someone who has the infection. It s not in your genes. Immune refers to your immune system (the parts of the body that fight infections.) Deficiency is not enough of something. A Syndrome is a collection of symptoms (what people feel) and signs (what can be seen or measured like a temperature). What is AIDS? AIDS is not a single disease or condition. Instead, it is a term that describes the point when a person s immune system can no longer cope because of the damage caused by HIV and they start to get one or more specific illnesses. People do not actually die from AIDS; they die from the cancers, pneumonia or other conditions that may take hold when their immune system has been weakened by HIV. The term AIDS is now very rarely used. It is more usual to talk of late-stage or advanced HIV infection What are the symptoms Of HIV/AIDS? Many people with HIV have no symptoms for several years while the virus spreads and damages their health. Others may develop symptoms similar to flu, usually two to six weeks after catching the virus. The only way to be 100% sure of whether or not you have the virus, is to get an HIV test.

2 HIV Transmission How is HIV Transmitted? HIV is present in the semen, blood, breast milk, vaginal fluid and anal mucous. Sexual intercourse (heterosexual and homosexual), sharing needles, breast feeding and blood transfusions can pass on HIV from one person to another. How can you prevent HIV infection? Have safer sex i.e. use a condom, and do not share needles or use dirty needles, take measures to prevent Mother to Child Transmission. Can you get HIV from kissing/sneezing/spitting/ touching? HIV is not present at a high enough level in saliva to pass the virus on in this way. There is no risk of contracting HIV through close contact. Can you get HIV from oral sex? HIV is extremely unlikely to be passed on in this way; however the risk is increased if you have sores or cuts on your mouth or genitals. There are ways to lower your risk of passing on STIs during oral sex, such as: condoms, female condoms, dental dams. Remember you should always be aware of the risk of other STIs before engaging in any sexual act. If someone in my family has HIV, does that mean I am more likely to get it as well? HIV is not genetic. The main routes of transmission are; sexual intercourse (heterosexual and homosexual), sharing needles, breast feeding and blood transfusions.

3 HIV TreaTment Is there a cure for HIV? Although there is still no cure for HIV, with good adherence and the many different anti-hiv drugs available, people living with HIV are living long and healthy lives How do you Treat HIV? HIV treatment is another name for medication. There are many types of HIV medication (called anti-retroviral) which work in different ways and combinations. Treatment makes it harder for the HIV to copy itself and spread to other cells. The goal of treatment is to reduce the amount of HIV in the blood (this is called viral load). Each individual s medication will vary, but will usually involve combination therapy when different medications are taken to combat the virus at different stages. DOes everybody with HIV have to take Treatment? No, not everyone needs to take treatment. Doctors help patients decide when they are ready to begin treatment. Most of the time, people start treatment when their CD4 count (the number of CD4 cells per cubic millimetre of blood) is low, which in the UK means below 350. Sometimes, doctors may start treatment before if there is additional risk, such as during pregnancy. If I got HIV could I just take a pill to fix it? HIV medication involves lots of medication that will need to be taken daily, often at specific points in the day. The medications have their own side-effects and people can struggle with adherence (sticking to) their medication plan. The medication is very complex and works to prevent the virus from replicating. These days, a person with HIV who is taking medication correctly can expect to live a long and healthy life. Is there a pill that stops HIV Transmission? There is a cocktail of emergency medication that can be administered in certain cases that can prevent a person from being infected by the virus, for example, if a condom broke during sex when one person was already HIV positive, the negative person would be advised to take PEP (Post Exposure Prophylaxis). PEP must be taken within 72 hours of the suspected transmission. It is not 100% guaranteed but has a very high success rate. It is free of charge but can only be prescribed by doctors and only if certain criteria are met. Sexual health and HIV clinics can provide it, as can Accident & Emergency departments of hospitals. Regular family doctors (GPs) don t give PEP. WilL you die if you get HIV? There is no cure for HIV but it can be treated with medication. If an HIV positive person adheres closely to their treatment plan and lead a healthy lifestyle they can live for many years postdiagnosis, and have the same life-expectancy as an HIV negative person.

4 HIV TreaTment What is an undetectable viral load? A viral load is the name given to the level of HIV in your blood. An undetectable viral load for an HIV positive person will mean they have: A healthy immune system Near to normal life expectancy Limited HIV transmission risk (1 in ) Reduced risk of ill health Reduced risk of drug resistance Reduced risk of mother to child transmission in pregnancy, during birth and breast feeding What is the Swiss StaTement? In 2008 the Swiss National AIDS Commission, upon evidence available at the time stated the following: An HIV positive person on antiretroviral therapy, with completely suppressed viraemia (Viral Load less than 50 copies) is not sexually infectious. This statement is valid so long as: the person takes their medication at the times prescribed without fault, regular check-ups are carried out to make sure of its effectiveness, the viral load has been undetectable for at least 6 months and there are no other STIs present. DOes medication work the same way for children? HIV treatment works in the same basic ways for children, but since children s and young people s bodies are still growing, there are not as many different types of medication available. Whatever age, it is really important to take HIV medication at the same time each day because the medication only works for a certain length of time. If it is taken late there is a risk it will not be as effective. If lots of doses are missed, the body can build up resistance to the treatment and people may not be able to take that combination anymore. There are only a certain number of combinations available to take so it s important to avoid resistance.

5 HIV Testing How does the HIV Test work? A blood test is the usual test for HIV. It looks for signs of infection in the blood. These can be antibodies or a protein that the virus makes in the early weeks after infection Where can you be Tested for HIV? HIV testing is available on the NHS free of charge and confidential to anyone at the following locations: Community Contraception Clinics (Family planning clinics). Brook (Brook Advisory Centres) - for under 25s only. NHS sexual health clinics or genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics Health clinics GP surgeries Specialist HIV testing sites Antenatal clinics Private clinics THT clinics Home testing kits (you will need to pay for these) When you get tested, you will see a doctor, trained counsellor, nurse or some other health professional in private. He or she will explain what the test involves and what the result means. In the UK, nearly all HIV treatment and care is provided by specialist hospital clinics. There are hospitals offering HIV specialist care in all the major cities in the UK. These clinics operate an open-access policy so you don't need to be referred by your GP. You can find out more about HIV clinics and the services they offer and you can search online for all HIV, genitourinary medicine (GUM) and sexual health clinics where HIV care is given. How long do you have to wait for the Test results? It depends on the type of test that is used. Rapid HIV tests can take from as little as 60 seconds to get a result whereas other clinics will provide the test results on the same day of the test or up to a week later. From early 2014, it will also be possible to buy self-testing kits that will allow self-testing and immediate results. It is important to check that any test you buy has a CE quality assurance mark and is licensed for sale in the UK.

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