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HIV - The facts

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system (our natural defence against infection and disease). Treatment for HIV is both effective at stopping the virus attacking the immune system and means someone living with HIV can't pass it on.

In late-stage HIV infection, formally known as AIDS, the weakened immune system means the body is more vulnerable to life-threatening conditions such as pneumonia and cancer.

Less than 5,000 people are living with undiagnosed HIV in England. Testing is free and easy - order your test HERE.

Of the 4,139 people diagnosed with HIV in the UK in 2019, 41% were gay or bisexual men. Of the 1,559 heterosexual people diagnosed with HIV in 2019, 37% were black African men and women.

The virus is passed on through exchanging bodily fluids (such as semen, blood, or vaginal secretions) in the following ways:

  • unprotected sex (sex without a condom): this is the most common form of transmission, and includes vaginal, anal and oral sex
  • sharing needles to inject drugs
  • birth or breastfeeding: a mother can pass the virus to her baby (this can be prevented with medication)

HIV can affect anyone, regardless of gender or sexual preference. It is important that you protect yourself against viruses or STIs like HIV by using condoms when having sex and test yourself regularly if you change sexual partners.


Click Here for a leaflet that provides information to patients living with HIV about the way that medication is provided for them.


Do you want to use your own experience of living with HIV to give something back?

Project 100 is a national programme that trains people living with HIV to provide peer support. 

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