HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus.

HIV infects and gradually destroys a person's immune system. The immune system is the part of the body that protects and reduces infections and cancers. Initially, someone living with HIV may show no signs or symptoms of HIV infection as their immune system manages to control it. However, in most cases after time their immune system will need help from anti-HIV drugs to keep the HIV infection under control. There is no cure for HIV – treatment can only help keep the HIV infection under control rather than rid an individual of it completely.


AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.

AIDS is not a single disease or condition; instead, it is a term that describes the point when an individual starts to get one or more specific illnesses due to the damage to their immune system caused by HIV. People do not die of AIDS; they die from the cancers, pneumonia or other conditions that may take hold when their immune system has been weakened by HIV.


HIV is not passed on easily from one person to another. The HIV virus is in body fluids, for the HIV to be passed on, the body fluids of someone who is already infected have to get into an uninfected person’s body and then into their bloodstream.

The body fluids that contain enough HIV to infect someone are:

  • Seminal fluid (cum, semen, and  precum)

  • Vaginal Fluids, including menstrual fluids

  • Breast milk

  • Blood


Other body fluids, like saliva, sweat or urine, do not contain enough of the HIV virus to infect another person.

The main ways that HIV can be transmitted are:

  • Through unprotected penetrative sex (such as anal or vaginal sex)

  • From mother to baby

  • From blood to blood

It is important to understand you cannot get infected with the HIV virus from a range of social contact such as touching, kissing, hugging and others.

If you think you may have been exposed to HIV within the last 72 hours, you may be able to get PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis); a four week course of anti-HIV treatment which may prevent HIV infection after the virus has entered your body


If you think you have been exposed to HIV, you will need to decide whether to have a HIV test. This is an important decision that you should make as soon as possible. You can find out if you have been infected with HIV by having a blood test. The test not only looks for the HIV virus (antigen) itself but also for antibodies to the virus. Antibodies are made in your blood when an infection has got into your body.

It normally takes 12 weeks (3 months) for HIV antibodies to show up in the blood. However HIV antigens (the HIV virus) may be present and detectable in your blood from as little as 4 weeks after infection. How quickly HIV antigens or antibodies can be detected in your blood varies from person to person, and therefore HIV may not be detected, even though the infection is there, before 12 weeks from when you might have been exposed to HIV. This is called the window period.




HIV tests can be done at the following places:

  • Kwik Prick Rapid HIV test at Trade

  • Trade’s Gay Men’s Clinics

  • Genitor-Urinary Medicine (GUM) clinic

  • Family doctor (GP)

  • Private clinic

  • Other HIV organisations