HIV: 10 things to know!
1. HIV in the South West
HIV has not gone away. There are estimated to be 3,273 people living with HIV in the South West (including the 27% of people who remain undiagnosed).
All of us in the South West need to know the facts and take good care of our health.
2. What is HIV and AIDS?
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) attacks the body’s immune system making it less able to fight infections and more vulnerable to illnesses. The term ‘AIDS’ describes specific infections and illnesses that can result from the damage HIV does to the body’s immune system.
3. How is HIV passed on?
HIV is passed on most commonly through unprotected sex – sex without a condom. HIV can be passed from a pregnant mother to her child – but this can usually be prevented if the mother takes anti-HIV drugs during pregnancy and while breast-feeding. HIV can also be passed on by people sharing injecting needles.
4. How do you stay safe?
Condoms can effectively prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted infections from being passed on. Clean needles and syringes are available if you inject drugs – never share needles or other injecting equipment.
5. What about you and your partner?
Talk to your partner about HIV, safer sex and intimacy. Always use a condom if you do not know your sexual partner’s HIV status, or if you have sex with lots of different partners.
6. How do I know if I have HIV?
The only way to know if you have HIV or not is to take a test. You can have a free and confidential HIV test at your doctor or local GUM Department (Sexual Health Clinic). If you think you might have been at risk, or if you tested HIV negative a long time ago, go for a test! Knowing whether or not you have HIV allows you to make important decisions about your health and that of others. The sooner you know the better so that you can get medical help, and to give treatments the best chance of working well.
7. Is there treatment for HIV?
There is very effective treatment for HIV and AIDS – but there is no cure. The body is not able to get rid of HIV, so once someone has HIV, it is in the body for life and a person will need to take treatment every day. The anti-HIV treatments, called anti-retroviral drugs, come in different combinations. When people living with HIV take the drugs regularly, they are usually able to live healthier lives for longer. Because treatments are so effective and available, unlike the early days of HIV in the 1980s and 1990s, very few people now die from HIV or AIDS in the South West.
8. Getting HIV treatment and support
The good news is treatments are much easier to take than they used to be! They are available across the region and treatment is usually free. There is also lots of information and support available for people living with HIV.
For more information please visit the Information Services area of this website.
9. If I have HIV what are my human rights?
Anyone living with HIV is entitled to be treated equally, with respect and dignity. There are laws to protect individuals living with HIV, and many people are working hard to make sure our workplaces and public services are free from discrimination.
10. Talk about HIV
We need to talk about HIV to our sexual partners, our friends, our sons and daughters, our grandsons and granddaughters, our friends and colleagues. HIV and sex talk can be healthy talk.