HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus.
HIV can only live within a human host and is most often transmitted between people through:
- unprotected anal or vaginal sex
- sharing injecting equipment
- pregnancy and the process of childbirth (to infants from their mothers)
- breast milk (to infants from their mothers)
- oral sex (rarely)
HIV is passed between people by blood, semen, pre-cum (the fluid that the penis produces for lubrication before ejaculation), breast milk and vaginal fluids, including menstrual fluids and the mucous found in the rectum
HIV cannot be transmitted through the air or through sweat or saliva or by kissing, masturbation, insects or other animal bites, faeces or casual everyday contact such as sharing food, toothbrushes, clothes, linen or furniture etc.
HIV infects and gradually destroys an infected person's immune system, reducing their protection against infection and cancers.
Initially, someone living with HIV may show no symptoms of HIV infection as their immune system manages to control it. However, in most cases their immune system will need help from anti-HIV drugs to keep the HIV infection under control. These drugs do not completely rid the body of HIV infection.
Anyone who has sex can be infected with a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
STIs are infections that are transmitted through close body contact or the exchange of body fluids, blood, mucus or saliva.
Sexual contact includes:
- Penetrative sex
- Oral sex
- Mutual masturbation
If you or your partner has any sex with casual partners it's a good idea to get tested for STIs regularly. An annual check is a good baseline. However, the more sexual partners you have the more frequently you should get tested. That may mean every 3-6 months.
Even if you have no symptoms you could still have an STI and the only way to know is to get a test. If you're in a new relationship, monogamous or otherwise, it's a good time for you and your partner to get a check-up. You may have contracted an STI from a previous partner. Regular testing is also recommended if you're having sex outside the relationship.
Sexually transmitted infections are caused by a range of viruses, parasites, bacteria and fungi.
- HIV which can lead to AIDS
- Genital herpes
- Genital and anal warts
- Hepatitis A, B & C
- Molluscum contagiosum
- Pubic lice (crabs)
- Gut infections
- Lymphogranuloma Venereum (LGV)
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