What is HIV?

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks the cells in your immune system and weakens your ability to fight everyday infections and disease.

HIV destroys CD4 cells and makes more copies of itself. Over time it gradually breaks down a person’s immune system. Someone living with HIV, who is not receiving treatment, will find it increasingly harder to fight off infections and diseases.

If HIV is left untreated, it may take up to 10 or 15 years for the immune system to be so severely damaged it can no longer defend itself. The speed HIV progresses will vary depending on age, health and background.

Facts about HIV

  • People with HIV can live a normal, healthy life with the effective treatment available.
  • Early HIV diagnosis is important. The sooner treatment can start, the better long-term health. Regular HIV testing is vital.
  • HIV is found in semen, blood, vaginal and anal fluids, and breast milk.
  • HIV cannot be transmitted through sweat, saliva or urine. For more information on how HIV is transmitted, please click here.
  • Using male condoms or female condoms during sex is the best way to prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
  • If you inject drugs, always use a clean needle and syringe, and never share equipment.
  • If you get a tattoo, always make sure the tattooist uses a new needle.


What is AIDS?

Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is the name used to describe a number of potentially life-threatening infections and illnesses that happen when your immune system has been severely damaged by the HIV virus. This is the last stage of HIV, when the infection is very advanced, and if left untreated will lead to death.

Facts about AIDS

  • AIDS is also referred to as advanced HIV infection or late-stage HIV.
  • The treatment available for HIV means that more people are staying well, with fewer people developing AIDS.


Although there is currently no cure for HIV, with the right treatment and support, people living with HIV can live long and healthy lives. To do this, it is vital to take treatment correctly.