HIV - The facts
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system (our natural defence against infection and disease). In late-stage HIV infection, also known as AIDS, the weakened immune system means the body is more vulnerable to life-threatening conditions such as pneumonia and cancer.
It's estimated that nearly a quarter of people who have HIV don't know they have it.
Of the 6,151 new cases of HIV being diagnosed in 2014, around 40% were infected through heterosexual sex, and 55% through sex between men. The remainder of these diagnoses got their infection in other ways, such as sharing needles to inject drugs, and mother-to-baby transmission in pregnant 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 contraception when having sex and test yourself regularly if you change sexual partners.
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.