HIV Basics

HIV Basics

  • Learn the Basics
  • Know the Facts
  • Take Care of Yourself
The basics about HIV and how to live a long healthy live with HIV.
If you have been just diagnosed or have been living with HIV for a while, find information here on what to do next. Learn how to stay healthy while living with HIV.

What Is HIV?

HIV (or human immunodeficiency virus) weakens your immune system, your body’s built-in defence against disease and illness.

Anyone can be infected with HIV. You can have HIV without knowing it. You may not look or feel sick for years, but you can still pass the virus on to other people.

Without HIV treatment, your immune system can become too weak to fight off serious illnesses. HIV can also damage other parts of your body. Without treatment, you can eventually become sick with life-threatening infections. This is the most serious stage of HIV infection, called AIDS (or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).

There is no vaccine to prevent HIV but there are things you can do to avoid passing or getting HIV.

There Is No Cure for HIV… But There Is Treatment

There is no cure for HIV, but with proper treatment and care, most people with HIV can avoid getting AIDS, stay healthy and live a long life.

HIV drugs have to be taken every day. They cannot get rid of HIV but they can keep it under control. They can also dramatically lower the risk of passing HIV during sex.

Who Can Get HIV?

Anyone can get HIV, no matter...
  • your age
  • your sex
  • your race or ethnic origin
  • who you have sex with

How Does HIV Get Passed from One Person to Another?

Only 5 body fluids can contain enough HIV to infect someone:
  1. blood
  2. semen (including pre-cum)
  3. rectal fluid
  4. vaginal fluid
  5. breast milk
HIV can only get passed when one of these fluids from a person with HIV gets into the bloodstream of another person—through broken skin, the opening of the penis or the wet linings of the body, such as the vagina, rectum or foreskin.

The two main ways that HIV can get passed between you and someone else are:
  • through sex
  • by sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs (including steroids or hormones)

HIV can also be passed:

  • by sharing needles or ink to get a tattoo
  • by sharing needles or jewellery to get a body piercing
  • by sharing acupuncture needles
  • to a foetus or baby during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding

HIV cannot be passed by:

  • talking, shaking hands, working or eating with someone who has HIV
  • hugs or kisses
  • coughs or sneezes
  • swimming pools
  • toilet seats or water fountains
  • bed sheets or towels
  • forks, spoons, cups or food
  • insects or animals
HIV cannot pass through healthy, unbroken skin.

Top Tips

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Of the many challenges faced by people living with HIV, one of the most difficult is keeping up to date with important information about the treatment and day-to-day management of HIV.

These tips have been identified as among the most important things people with HIV need to know about managing their health and well being.

HIV and Disclosure

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Disclosure or telling someone you are HIV positive is a very private and personal step for you to take.

This information will help you make informed decisions about this important step.

HIV and Smoking

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Smoking principally interferes with normal lung function, however in people living with HIV the risk of chronic lung disease is significantly increased along with many other conditions such as heart disease, liver problems, strokes and cancer.

HIV and Travel/Immigration

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Travelling around the world can involve new challenges and obstacles as many countries still restrict the entry, residence and stay of foreigners who are living with HIV.

HIV and Alcohol/Drugs

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If you are living with HIV, you may wonder what alcohol and other recreational drugs will do to your body. You may be wondering whether drugs are bad for your immune system. And how do recreational drugs interact with your HIV medications?

Here, you can read about what alcohol and drugs can do to your overall health.
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