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HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that attacks the immune system so that it is unable to fight infections and diseases. The virus is not curable but treatments allow people with HIV to live well for longer. AIDS occurs when the body can no longer fight life-threatening infections.

HIV is mostly caught through unprotected sex or through sharing infected needles.


  • Flu symptoms including fever
  • Muscle & joint pain
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen glands
  • Body rash
  • Tiredness

AIDS/Late-stage HIV

  • Persistent tiredness
  • Weight loss
  • Night sweats
  • Blurred vision
  • Dry cough
  • White spots in mouth
  • Diarrhoea
  • Fever lasting weeks
  • Shortness of breath

What causes HIV & Late-stage HIV?

Some *95% of HIV cases are acquired through sexual contact - usually as a result of unprotected vaginal or anal sex. There is also a low risk of catching HIV through oral sex.

The virus is transmitted in our bodily fluids including semen, vaginal fluids, blood or breast milk. HIV can pass to the baby during pregnancy or during breast-feeding.

HIV can also be transmitted by people using needles or syringes that have been previously used by an infected person.

The virus hijacks cells in our immune system called CD4 cells. It then makes thousands of copies of itself which leave the CD4 cells killing them in the process until there are too few cells for the immune system to work.

How is HIV treated?

First step is to have an HIV test. This checks for HIV antibodies (produced by the immune system as it tries to fight off the virus) or for a protein (p24) that is part of the HIV virus.

If HIV is confirmed you’ll be tested to monitor the stage of the infection and when to start treatment. Antiretroviral therapy (ART) or combination therapy are used to treat HIV. Combination therapy means taking a combination of different antiretroviral drugs (ARV) to stop the HIV becoming resistant to one single ARV. These days ARVs are often combined into one pill know as a ‘fixed dose combination’.

Anti-retrovirals need to be taken for life. They can cause side-effects such as nausea.

Alternative remedies/self-help

Livingly healthily is important for people with HIV to reduce their risk of falling ill and putting more burden on the immune-system. Regular exercise, healthy eating and quitting smoking are all advised.