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shutterstock_2578400.jpg HIV Virus

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus.

HIV attacks the immune system, gradually causing damage. Without treatment a person with HIV is at risk of developing serious infections and cancers that a healthy immune system could fight off.

Current medication for HIV works by reducing the amount of HIV in the body so the immune system can work . This is not  a cure and does not get rid of  HIV completely, but with the right treatment and care, someone with HIV can expect to live a long and healthy life.

HIV is present in blood, genital fluids (semen, vaginal fluids and moisture in the rectum) and breast milk.

The main ways HIV can be passed on to someone else are:

  • during unprotected anal, vaginal and oral sex,
  • by sharing injecting equipment, and
  • from a mother to her baby during pregnancy, birth or through breastfeeding.

But there are ways of preventing HIV infection in all of these situations.

A test can tell if you have HIV. If you do, this is described as being HIV positive.

AIDS stands for acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

AIDS is the name used to describe a combination of potentially life-threatening infections and cancers, which can develop when someone’s immune system has been damaged by HIV.

You cannot catch AIDS and there is no AIDS test. HIV causes AIDS and it is HIV that can be passed on.

Being diagnosed with AIDS means different things for different people. Just because someone has AIDS does not mean they will die – but it is essential to have medical care and treatment.

Treatment with combinations of anti-HIV drugs can keep the immune system strong, and because of this the number of people who are diagnosed with AIDS has fallen. Thanks to effective HIV treatment, many people who developed AIDS are now very well and can look forward to a long and healthy life.

There is currently no cure for HIV. Major advances in treatment mean that many people can lead long and healthy lives, although some may experience side effects from the treatment.

The Symptoms of HIV  vary from person to person. The only way to be sure if you have HIV is to have an HIV test. You cannot tell from symptoms alone.

If you have HIV, it’s very important that it’s diagnosed, for the best chance of getting treatment and care, and of staying well.

HIV tests are available in lots of healthcare settings. This might be in a sexual health clinic, doctor’s surgery, hospital or private clinic, for example. In many countries, there are also places where you can be tested in your local community.

In the UK, you can get a free and confidential HIV test at any NHS sexual health or GUM (genitourinary medicine) clinic. These clinics are linked into specialist HIV services, and there will be support available to you if your result is positive.

In some countries, including the US and the UK, you can buy ‘home sampling’ kits, where you take a sample of blood or saliva yourself at home and then send it to a laboratory to be analysed.

HIV Pregnancy and Birth –  In the UK with the right treatment and care, 99% of women living with HIV give birth to healthy babies without passing on HIV.

brain-in-headHIV related brain injury –  This is known as HIV Associated Neurocognitive Disorder (HAND) This can occur when HIV enters the brain and impacts on the health of nerve cells causing nerve damage and brain related problems. It can also be caused by opportunistic infections due to a weakened immune system. Risk of HIV brain related problems are higher when the immune system becomes too weak to fight the virus or other infections. People with a late HIV diagnosis are at a higher risk of developing HIV associated brain injury. People with HAND often display symptoms that are very similar to dementia such as memory loss, confusion, loss of a sense of self, difficulty in walking, speaking or carrying out every day tasks. With the right treatment, medication and rehabilitation many patients lives can be restored to full independence. This specialised treatment , care and rehabilitation is now  Mildmay’s area of expertise. It includes highly skilled medical and nursing care, treatment, rehabilitation and a combined range of therapies. With this care 80% of Mildmay’s patients are able to return to independent living and the quality of life improves for all.

 HIV Statistics

Stats taken from Public Health England and NAT

An estimated 35 million people worldwide are living with HIV and 2.3 million new HIV infections worldwide.


In the UK an estimated 107,800 people were living with HIV in 2013.  Approximately 26,000 of those infected had not yet been diagnosed and are unaware of their infection and remain at risk of passing on their infection if having unprotected sex.

In 2013, a total of 81,512 people, including 642 children, received HIV specialist care. Over the last decade, the number of people accessing specialist care for HIV has steadily grown. In 2013, 81,512 people in the UK were accessing HIV treatment and care, this doubled the number in 2004 (41,157) and a 5% increase from 2012

Rates of new HIV diagnosis and prevalence continue to be significantly higher in London than elsewhere in the UK. (2012)

The number of people living with a diagnosed HIV infection who are aged 50 and over has seen a large increase over recent years.  In 2013, one in four adults seen for HIV care were 50 years of age or older.  This reflects improvements to life expectancy for people living wtih HIV as well as people acquiring HIV later in life.


Sub saharan Africa remains the region most heavily affected by HIV with 25 million adults and children  living with HIV. (2011) There were 1.6 million new HIV infections.

There were 21,000 new diagnoses amongst children and  220,000 AIDS-related deaths –