About HIV and Aids

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) attacks the body's immune system. A healthy immune system provides a natural defence against disease and infection.

Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (Aids) is a term that is used to describe the late stage of HIV. This is when the immune system has stopped working and the person develops a life-threatening condition, such as pneumonia. The term is no longer widely used. Specialists now prefer to use the terms advanced or late-stage HIV infection.


How common is HIV?

The number of people living with HIV is rising each year. This is due to a number of reasons including; more cases are being diagnosed, people are living longer due to more effective medication and people don’t practice safer sex.

Brighton & Hove has a high rate of HIV, the highest rate of HIV outside of London.

Men who have sex with men remain at greatest risk of acquiring HIV within the UK with no evidence of declining infections in this group.  


How is HIV Transmitted?

There are four main routes by which HIV can be transmitted:

1. Unprotected vaginal or anal sex
If you have unprotected vaginal or anal sex, you could be risking transmission of HIV. Using a condom use can stop HIV transmission.

2. Sharing needles
Sharing needles or other drug injecting equipment is risky. There may be traces of HIV infected blood sufficient to infect someone with HIV.

3. Mother to baby
If a pregnant woman has HIV, she can pass it on to her child in three ways - during pregnancy, during birth, or through breastfeeding. However, there are proven steps mothers can take to reduce the possibility of their unborn child contracting HIV.

4. Infected blood
People can become infected with HIV by receiving infected blood or blood products as part of medical treatment. In the UK, the chance of this happening is remote as all blood, blood products and donated organs are screened for HIV and infected materials destroyed.

HIV cannot be transmitted by:

  • kissing
  • holding hands
  • touching
  • toilet seats
  • swimming pools
  • insect or animal bites
  • sharing eating utensils

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