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What is it?
Human Immunodeficiency Virus is a virus that damages and weakens the body’s immune system (defences) making it unable to fight off infections.
Signs and Symptoms:
Almost half of the people who become infected with HIV will experience flu-like symptoms within a few weeks, others may not have any signs or symptoms at all.
Symptoms may include a fever, swollen glands, a rash, aching muscles or joints and mouth ulcers.
HIV is passed from one person to another through
- Unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex
- Sharing the needle or syringe of a person already infected with the virus
- Sharing sex toys
HIV is transmitted from a person already infected with the virus through blood, semen, pre-ejaculate fluid (precum), vaginal fluids or breast milk.
Treatments and Testing:
After coming into contact with HIV it may take up to 3 months before it is detectable. A blood test will check for HIV antibodies or some people are first diagnosed when they become ill due to their immune system being weak.
Depending on where you had the test done, results for a HIV test should take no longer than 10 days; some services offer same day and a small number offering within the hour results.
If you’ve had sex with someone in the last 72 hours who is either HIV positive or who has a high chance of having HIV then taking a short course of drugs may prevent infection; this is known as Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP).
There is currently no cure for HIV but drugs known as antiretroviral treatment or combination therapy and reduce the level of HIV in the body and delay or prevent its development.
Treatments for HIV can have unpleasant side effects and be difficult to take but most people with HIV benefit from treatment and live longer and have improved health than if they hadn’t taken anything.
Where to go:
Genitourinary Medicine (GUM) Services offer you free and confidential service for testing and treating of genital infections and blood test for HIV or hepatitis. You can find your local GUM or Contraception Clinic by typing in your postcode into the Service Finder.