Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus that affects the body’s immune system and reduces its ability to fight infections.
HIV is a virus which can be passed on:
- through unprotected penetrative sex;
- by sharing needles to inject drugs;
- from a mother to her baby before or during birth;
- by breastfeeding.
These days there are extremely effective treatments available for HIV which mean that people with HIV can live long, healthy lives. Treatment reduces the level of HIV in the blood to ‘undetectable’ levels and there is unequivocal evidence that someone who has HIV and who had undetectable virus cannot pass on HIV through sex. This is called Undetectable = Untransmittable, or U= U.
HIV PrEP – Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is a treatment taken by someone who does not have HIV to prevent them getting HIV. Information about PrEP can be found here.
Testing for HIV
Testing for HIV involves a simple blood test and can be done from home through online testing or by visiting a GUM clinic. It is important not to delay seeking advice and taking this test if you feel you have been at risk. The earlier the condition is diagnosed the more successful treatment is likely to be.
All pregnant women in Northern Ireland are now routinely tested antenatally for HIV.
Raising awareness about HIV
Every year, World AIDS Day events take place to raise awareness and show support for people living with HIV. World AIDS Day falls on 1 December each year.