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HIV and AIDS: Just the facts

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus.

It is a virus that damages cells in the immune system that work to fight infections.

AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. You suffer this as a result of long-term damage to the immune system caused by HIV when left untreated.

How can you get it?

HIV can be transmitted from one person to another via unprotected vaginal or anal sex.

When someone has HIV, the virus is present within their bodily fluids including semen, blood and anal fluids. It CANNOT be spread through contact with urine, saliva or sweat.

HIV can also be transmitted through the sharing of items that have touched blood, including needles.

In females infected with HIV, the virus can be transmitted from mother to baby during pregnancy.


HIV does not often have significant symptoms – this can make it difficult to know if you have been infected.


It is very important if you have had unprotected sexual intercourse and you think you may have HIV, or any other sexually transmitted disease, to get tested as soon as possible. To be tested for HIV (or any other sexually transmitted disease), visit:

  • Your GP surgery
  • A sexual health or GUM clinic. You can find your local clinic by clicking here

This is important so you can begin treatment early if you test positive, which can reduce the risk of you becoming more unwell and transmitting the virus to others.

HIV, if left untreated, can lead to significant problems, so early treatment can prevent HIV developing into an AIDS-type illness.


At present there is no cure for HIV, but there are medicines that enable people with the virus to live a near to normal life.

Tablets are used to treat HIV and work by stopping the virus multiplying in the body. This protects the immune system from being damaged.

Many people with diagnosed HIV will be treated with a combination of different medicines, these will be prescribed by a doctor and will help to build the body’s resistance to HIV.

Effective HIV treatment can reduce the level of the virus in the body below the test levels, making HIV undetectable. This reduces the risk of transmitting HIV to others.


You can prevent or reduce the risk of catching HIV by:

  • Using a condom for sexual intercourse
  • Being prescribed medication to protect those without HIV from infection. This medication does not protect against other sexually transmitted infections

How to get help

If you have more questions about HIV/AIDS or would like to speak to someone about this, have a look at the following links or search for services in the local area below. You can also contact a school nurse for further support.

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