HIV/Aids is caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus which attacks the body’s immune system. Once infected the virus multiplies and integrates in the body and over a period of time it kills off the body’s main infection fighting cells ( CD4 cells). This process can take anywhere from a few months to several years. This is why many people who are infected by the virus might not know that they have been infected for several years.
The body will keep trying to produce new CD4 cells but eventually the numbers of will decline and the immune system will stop working. This will leave the body with little or no defence against infection or disease and eventually, if left untreated the HIV virus will lead to AIDS (Acquired Immuno-Deficency Syndrome) which can lead to death.
Healthline has produced a helpful visual graphic on the effects of HIV http://www.healthline.com/health/hiv-aids/effects-on-body
- Unprotected sex (anal, vaginal, oral)
- Sharing needles, IV drug use
- Mother to child during childbirth
- Blood transfusions ( rare in UK)
HIV is not spread by kissing, touching, frottage, sharing utensils, or rimming.
The incidence of HIV is increasing in the UK among both heterosexuals and homosexuals.
The most recent statistics in the UK (2012) estimates that there are around 100000 people infected with HIV in the UK . Around a quarter of these people are unaware that they have been infected. In 2012 there was 6360 new HIV diagnosis in the UK, and for the first time in 2010 more of these infections were acquired in the UK rather than abroad. (source HPA)
A recent survey by the HIV charity Terrance Higgins Trust (THT) ,found that at least 1 in 7 gay men in London are HIV positive. Around 3000 new diagnosis were made in MSM, the highest ever figure in one year. ( Source HPA). The good news is that treatment is very effective and if diagnosed early HIV can be managed well.
- Don’t share needles
- Know your status so you can protect your partners and yourself
- Pre Exposure Prophylaxis PrEP ( taking medication to try and prevent infection)
- Post Exposure Prophylaxis PEP ( taking medication after a risky encounter to try and prevent infection)
- Sore throat
- Joint aches
- Swollen glands
These symptoms, so called sero conversion illness, usually occurs 3-4 weeks post contact but the symptoms are easily missed or confused with flu.
- Blood test: There are different HIV tests depending on the length of time that has passed since you were exposed
- Early detection test ( from 10 days post contact)
- 4th Generation HIV Duo test ( from 28 days post contact)
- INSTI test ( from 90 days post contact)
At the moment there is no cure for HIV but there are many treatments that will successfully suppress the virus and keep you healthy. Most studies show that people who start on antiretrovirals early enough, have a normal lifespan. This is why it is so important to regularly test for HIV and to know your status. It can save your life.
I have over 14 years experience providing sexual health screening and I offer a completely confidential, professional, non judgemental service from start to end. If you are not sure if you have been at risk, then I offer a normal consultation to discuss the possible risks and whether screening would be appropriate. We discuss and agree all costs beforehand so you know exactly where you stand and I will always provide you with clear and accurate advice based on current British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH )guidelines.