What is HIV?

“HIV” is short for “Human Immunodeficiency Virus”. It is a virus that affects the human body.

How do you get HIV?

In Australia the most common way of getting HIV is having sex with someone who has HIV, and not using a condom.

* You can also get HIV by sharing injecting drug equipment – syringes or needles – with someone who has HIV, or by sharing tattoo or body piercing equipment.
* HIV can be transmitted from mother to baby during pregnancy, childbirth, or while breastfeeding if the mother is not taking HIV medication.
* HIV can also be transmitted if the blood from a person with HIV gets directly into an open cut on another person.

You can’t get HIV from ordinary day to day contact with people who have HIV. You can shake hands, share food and cutlery, use the same soap, sit on the same toilet – and give them a kiss and hug.

Our resources page has videos , info-graphics and more:  http://www.atsihiv.org.au/health-promotion/hiv-health-promotion-resources/

How do I tell if I have HIV?

* People usually have some symptoms soon after getting HIV – within days or weeks. These seem like flu symptoms. They can then feel quite well for months or years before getting very sick.
* HIV is most infectious in the few weeks after you get it. That’s why it’s so important to test regularly – especially if you haven’t always used a condom or you’ve shared injecting equipment.

The only way to tell is to get tested.

What is AIDS?

AIDS stands for “Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome” and AIDS is different to HIV.

Some people remember back to the 1980s and 90s when people in Australia died from AIDS. This was because HIV treatment drugs were not effective back then. Most people with HIV went on to get AIDS and many people died.

Without HIV medication, HIV causes more and more damage to a person’s immune system and they will develop AIDS.

Today, people with HIV in Australia  generally no longer get AIDS because HIV treatment medication can be prescribed to anyone with HIV who wants to go on treatment. HIV medication doesn’t cure HIV but if taken as directed the treatment will prevent a person getting AIDS.

What about other STIs

If you need any information on STIs such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea or syphilis see http://youngdeadlyfree.org.au/– and have a look at the factsheets.