HIV stands for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It is a virus that weakens the body’s immune system and uses it to reproduce itself. AIDS is the final stage of the HIV infection. It develops in HIV positive people when their immune system is too weak to combat a range of diseases.
HIV is a virus which is most commonly passed on by sexual contact. HIV attacks cells of the immune system. Untreated, the immune system weakens so that the body cannot defend against various bacteria, viruses and other germs. This is when AIDS (commonly now called late-stage HIV infection) develops. However, early detection and early treatment with antiretroviral therapy (ART) means that people living with HIV can lead active and healthy lives.
Having HIV does not always mean that you have AIDS. It can take many years for people with the virus to develop AIDS.
How do you get HIV?
HIV is found in the body fluids of an infected person, which includes semen, vaginal and anal fluids, blood, and breast milk. It is a fragile virus and does not survive outside the body for long.
HIV cannot be transmitted through sweat or urine.
The most common way of getting HIV in the UK is:
- by anal or vaginal sex without a condom.
According to statistics from Public Health England, 95% of those diagnosed with HIV in the UK in 2013 acquired HIV as a result of sexual contact.
Other ways of getting HIV include:
- Using a contaminated needle, syringe or other injecting equipment.
- Transmission from mother to baby during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding.
- Through oral sex or sharing sex toys (although the risk is significantly lower than for anal and vaginal sex)
If you are at risk of picking up any sexually transmitted infections, then it is highly advisable to be tested and treated without delay. Early treatment reduces the risk of complications in the future.
If the test is positive, then you may need further testing to see if you have picked up any other infections. At Cosmopolitan Medical Clinic, our doctor or nurse will provide you with impartial and confidential advice based on your sexual history and symptoms, and recommend the most appropriate screening / testing.
HIV Tests at Cosmopolitan Medical — We offer several HIV testing options:
- Instant HIV test - which provides a result within 60 seconds (requires 90 days post contact for an accurate result)
- HIV I & II antibody and p24 antigen blood test - HIV DUO (requires 28 Days Post contact)
- Multiplex PCR testing which is the most accurate method available for early HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C detection - Early Detection (requires 10 days post contact)
Wearing a condom during sex helps to prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. The risk of infection increases with the number of changes of sexual partner.
Although there is no TOTAL cure for HIV there are now excellent treatments available that can keep the infection under control and you can live a normal life. BUT the sooner you are tested, the sooner treatment can be started if the result is positive.
Please refer to the following charities / support sites for further Information: