HIV is a virus that damages the immune system. It is transmitted through body fluids. Treatments are available for HIV infection, but there is no vaccine and no cure. AIDS is a late stage of HIV infection.
HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. Infection with HIV damages the body's immune system, which makes it more difficult to fight off infections and some cancers.
HIV is a serious infection; more than 70 million people have been infected with HIV and about 35 million have died from HIV worldwide. Now effective treatment has been developed and people with HIV infection who take treatment daily can lead a full and long life.
Recent evidence shows that people who begin HIV treatment early in their infection have better health outcomes than those who begin HIV treatment at a later stage.
No; AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is a late stage of HIV infection. AIDS is diagnosed when a person with HIV infection has a severely damaged immune system so that they develop a disease caused by an organism that doesn’t usually affect healthy people. AIDS is also present if a person with HIV infection develops certain kinds of cancers. People with HIV infection who are on effective treatment do not develop AIDS, as the treatment stops damage to the immune system.
Most people have mild symptoms or no symptoms when they are first infected with HIV. Some people develop a flu-like illness with fever, sore throat, swollen glands or a rash a few weeks after being infected. These symptoms usually disappear without treatment after a week or two. This is called the seroconversion illness. After the initial illness, people with HIV infection usually have no symptoms for many years, despite the virus living in their body.
HIV is in the blood, semen, vaginal fluid or breast milk of an infected person and can be transmitted:
HIV is not transmitted by kissing or cuddling, by day-to-day social contact such as shaking hands, by sharing cutlery, cups or glasses, by eating food prepared by someone with HIV, through toilet seats, or by mosquito or other insect bites.
In Australia, people at the highest risk of getting HIV infection are:
People can be infected with several different sexually transmitted infections at the same time. Having a sexually transmissible infection (STI) makes it easier to also pick up HIV infection. And if someone is HIV positive, having another STI makes them more likely to pass on HIV to sexual partners.
HIV testing is recommended at least once every year for all gay and homosexually active men, and people who inject drugs. Testing within these groups should be done up to every three months if the person has many sexual partners (more than 5 within 3 months) or has anal sex without a condom. HIV testing is also recommended for:
HIV infection can be prevented by:
Anyone who is at risk of HIV infection should make sure that they are tested for HIV, so that they can be certain that they don’t place other people at risk of getting infected with HIV. Treatment should be started as early as possible as this has been shown to result in better health outcomes and dramatically reduces the risk of passing on HIV.
When someone is diagnosed with a HIV infection, it is important that other people who may also be at risk, such as sexual partners, are informed that they should be tested urgently for HIV infection. Doctors and nurses can help by informing sexual partners anonymously.
Under the Public Health Act 2010, a person with HIV or another notifiable STI must take reasonable precautions to prevent the spread of the STI. Reasonable precautions against the spread of HIV include:
If you think you have been very recently exposed to HIV, you may want to consider taking post exposure prophylaxis (PEP). PEP is a combination of drugs taken for one month that can prevent HIV from taking hold after a person has been exposed to the virus. It is important to commence PEP as soon as possible after the exposure, and PEP must be started within 72 hours (3 days). PEP drugs often have side effects and they are not suitable for everyone.
Find out about PEP by calling the PEP Information Line on 1800 737 669.
If your exposure was more than three days ago, you should consult your doctor or a sexual health clinic about being tested for HIV.
HIV is diagnosed by a blood test. One type of test detects antibodies to the virus, while another type looks for the virus itself. It currently takes between 15-24 days before blood will show a positive test result after a new HIV infection (the window period), and may take longer. This means that if after a recent exposure more than one blood test may be needed over time to rule out a new infection.
Treatment with antiretroviral drugs is very effective at preventing damage to the immune system caused by HIV. People living with HIV on antiretroviral therapy can lead full, long and normal lives. There are health benefits for immediate HIV treatment initiation for people with HIV. Successful treatment greatly reduces the amount of virus in the person's blood and other bodily fluids which prevents spread of the virus to other people.
HIV is a notifiable disease in NSW. This means that doctors and laboratory staff are legally required to provide some information about people diagnosed with HIV infection to NSW Health. The information collected is confidential and does not include the names and addresses of people diagnosed with HIV. Public health staff use these data to understand who is at risk of the disease in order to plan activities to prevent new infections in the future and to provide services for people living with HIV.
The NSW HIV Strategy 2016-2020 continues the commitment to achieving the virtual elimination of HIV transmission in NSW by 2020, building on the targets and activities that proved successful in implementing the NSW HIV Strategy 2012-2015. It is based on current evidence, and continues the focus by NSW on preventing, testing for and treating HIV.