HIV or AIDS - advice and support

What is HIV?

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It is an infection associated with serious illness, high costs of treatment and care, significant mortality and a high number of potential years of life lost if not treated with anti-retroviral (ART) medication.

Medication currently available can help most people feel well and expect to live a normal life span.

It is very important that HIV is diagnosed as early as possible so that anti-retroviral (ART) medication can be started as soon as possible.

What is AIDS?

AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) 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.

ART can be helpful for people who have AIDS when diagnosed and can be lifesaving. Treatment is likely to benefit people with HIV no matter when it is started, but people who start ART soon after they get HIV experience more benefits from treatment than do people who start treatment after they have developed AIDS.

How common is HIV?

While AIDS can't be transmitted from one person to another, the HIV virus can.

Around 1 in every 526 people in the UK has HIV. The two groups with the highest rates of HIV are gay and bisexual men (men who have sex with men/MSM) and black-African heterosexuals, where the rates are approximately 1 in 17 and 1 in 18 respectively.

Bromley borders other boroughs with the highest incidence of HIV in the country and the highest prevalence of HIV in Bromley is found in the northern area of the borough (Penge & Anerley).

In Bromley, a high number of HIV cases have acquired HIV in this country rather than abroad.

Should I get tested for HIV?

  • Being tested for HIV is the only way to know for sure if you have this infection.
  • 50% of all new HIV diagnosis is also diagnosed with Syphilis.
  • It is really important to get tested as soon as possible if you are at risk of contracting HIV. If HIV is diagnosed early anti-retroviral (ART) medication can be prescribed which allows most people who are infected the option of feeling well and living a normal lifespan.
  • If not diagnosed, HIV will damage your immune system leading to serious illness and greatly shorten your life.
  • Knowing whether or not you have HIV means you can make informed decisions about your health and future as well as taking measures to prevent passing the infection to others.
  • HIV can be passed through infected semen, vaginal fluids, rectal secretions, blood, and breast milk.
  • The most common way HIV is passed on is through having sex without a condom (sexual contact is responsible for 90% of HIV cases in the UK), or sharing infected needles, syringes or other drug injecting equipment.