What is HIV?
HIV stands for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It is a virus which attacks the body's immune system – the body's defence against diseases. When someone is described as living with HIV, they have the HIV virus in their body. Without medication, people with HIV can develop AIDS.
What is AIDS?
AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. AIDS is not considered a disease, but a syndrome – a collection of different signs and symptoms. If someone is said to have AIDS they will have HIV and at least one of a specific list of 'AIDS-defining' diseases including: tuberculosis, pneumonia or some types of cancer. With advances in HIV treatment, many people can recover from AIDS, though they will still have HIV.
In the UK in 2012 only 390 people were diagnosed with AIDS, 0.39% of the total number of people living with HIV.
What is a CD4 Count and Viral Load?
CD4 count is a measure of immune function. By measuring someone's CD4 levels you can see how HIV has affected their immune system, showing the progression of the virus. Most people in the UK start treatment when their CD4 count is at 350.
Viral load measures how active HIV is in someone's body. The higher the viral load the more infectious someone would be. Effective HIV medication can keep people's CD4 count high and their viral load so low it is undetectable. However people with HIV's CD4 count and viral load can go up and down depending on their medication, whether they have another STI and their general health.
How is HIV passed on?
HIV can be passed on through
• Infected blood
• Vaginal fluids
• Rectal secretions
• Breast milk.
The most common ways HIV is passed on are:
• Sex without a condom
• Sharing infected needles, syringes or other injecting drug equipment
• Mother to Baby (Although very rare within the UK when HIV status is known)
Is there a cure for HIV?
No, but treatment can keep the virus under control and the immune system healthy. People on HIV treatment can live a healthy, active life – although some may experience side effects from the treatment. If HIV is diagnosed late, treatment is likely to be less effective.
What is PEP & PrEP
Short for “pre-exposure prophylaxis,” PrEP is an HIV prevention strategy in which HIV-negative people take an oral pill once a day before coming into contact with HIV to reduce their risk of HIV infection. PrEP must be taken for at least 7 days to reach optimal levels of protection against HIV.
Short for “post-exposure prophylaxis,” PEP is an HIV prevention strategy in which HIV-negative people take anti-HIV medications after coming into contact with HIV to reduce their risk of HIV infection. PEP must be started within 72 hours after HIV exposure.