It is a virus, Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), that attacks the immune system.
No. Someone living with HIV has the virus in their body. Someone with AIDS has reached the stage where their immune system has become weak because of HIV and they have started to get diseases that normally their body would have fought off.
Although numbers are small there is a 10% increase every year in people living with HIV in Wales. Over 100 people are diagnosed every year in Wales.
Anyone can get HIV if they are having sex, it doesn’t matter whether you are straight or gay or where you come from. Although HIV is more common in men who have sex with men (MSM), bisexual men and African communities, there are now more people being infected outside of these groups. HIV is an issue for everyone.
It’s estimated that a quarter of the people in the UK who have HIV don’t know that they have it. For those who have been diagnosed and are on treatment their life expectancy is to reach ‘old age’ and generally they will not appear to be any different to anyone else.
HIV is passed between people in infected body fluids such as semen, vaginal secretions, blood, breast milk and rectal secretions. The most common way to pass on HIV is through sex without a condom or through sharing drug equipment such as needles, etc.
Always use a condom. You can get free condoms from the sexual health clinic. Condoms are the best way to protect yourself and others from HIV and other STIs. If you haven’t liked using condoms in the past try different ones, there are many different varieties now designed to increase pleasure and sensation.
You should go and get advice and a test at your local sexual health clinic.
Whether you need support before or after having an HIV test, it is available
It is estimated that between 11 and 18% of people living with HIV in Wales are currently unaware that they have the infection contributing to ongoing transmission to others in the population and poorer health outcomes for themselves. New treatment regimes for HIV infection are extremely effective and all those who perceive themselves to be at risk should have a HIV test.
Free HIV testing is available at your GP surgery or in any of the integrated sexual health services. Information on where your local integrated sexual health services are can be found at NHS Direct Wales.
In addition, HIV self-testing kits are available and this ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ document* provides information on how and when to get tested to allow individuals to make these informed decisions.
*Please note that in relation to finding sexual health services on page 13 of this document, integrated sexual health services for Wales are accessed here.