What is HIV?

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus and it is a virus that attacks the immune system, the body's natural defence system. Without a strong immune system, the body has trouble fighting off diseases. With an early diagnosis and effective treatments, most people with HIV won't develop any AIDS-related illnesses and will live a near-normal life.

HIV infects and destroys certain white blood cells called CD4+ cells. If too many CD4+ cells are destroyed, the body can no longer defend itself against infection. The last stage of HIV infection is AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).

How can you catch HIV?

You can get or transmit HIV only through specific activities. Most commonly, people get or transmit HIV through unprotected sex and needle sharing. The virus can also be passed from a mother to her baby during pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding. It can't be spread by casual contact like kissing or sharing drinking glasses with an infected person.

What are the symptoms of the HIV infection?

Most people experience a short flu-like illness for 2-6 weeks after HIV infection, symptoms may include cramps, nausea, diarrhoea, fever, headaches and weight loss.

After the early symptoms go away, an infected person may not have symptoms again for many years. Following this, signs will reappear and worsen. Untreated HIV progresses in different stages, these stages are based upon the infection amount in your blood. Later symptoms will include diarrhoea, fatigue, fever, loss of appetite and weight, night sweats, and many more.

How do you test for HIV?

The only way to know for sure whether you have HIV is to get tested. Knowing your HIV status enables you to take the correct steps to keep yourself living a healthy life. You can get tested for HIV at your local GP or sexual health clinic, or from the comfort of home. Testing at home allows you to discreetly and confidentially determine your HIV status at a time that is convenient to you.

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Both men and women can get HIV, however there are ways that you can protect yourself from the HIV infection. It is important that you regularly get tested, make sure to talk to your partner about HIV testing and get tested before you have sex. You should use condoms when having sex and only use sterile drug equipment, never share needles.

There is no cure for HIV or AIDS yet, but treatment can keep the virus under control, which means that you can still live a healthy and long life.

Yes, home tests are available from LloydsPharmacy, which you can complete ion the privacy of your own home at your convenience. Or you can use our Online Doctor, with a confidential consultation service online.