HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. When HIV enters the bloodstream it begins to attack the immune system. Your body then produces antibodies to fight off infection. Although these antibodies cannot destroy HIV, their presence is used to confirm HIV infection. HIV tests look for antibodies not for the virus itself. Find out more about HIV testing.
Over time, if left untreated, HIV greatly affects your health. Your immune system becomes so damaged that it can no longer fight off infections and cancers that don’t usually cause problems. AIDS (Aquired Immunodifficiency Syndrome) is the term used to describe these unusual symptoms or cancers in HIV positive people. HIV is not AIDS
HIV is transmitted in blood, semen, vaginal fluids or breast milk. In Ireland, having unprotected sex or sharing needles with an infected person are the two main ways, in which people get HIV. If you have never shared needles, then this leaves sex as the main way of becoming infected. Having other sexually transmitted infections (STI’s) such as syphilis or gonorrhoea can greatly increase the chances of becoming infected with HIV.
You can pass on or get HIV through unprotected vaginal intercourse or if a condom is used and it bursts or slips off.
You can pass on or get HIV through unprotected anal intercourse or if a condom is used and it bursts or slips off.
A small number of people have been infected with HIV through oral sex. HIV is passed on when fluids; semen, vaginal fluids or blood a positive person gets inside an HIV negative person’s mouth. Having sores, ulcers, bleeding gums or another STI (in particular, syphilis) can increase the chances of catching HIV. The risk for oral sex is not as high as the risk for unprotected vaginal or anal sex) but there is still a risk.
Washing teeth or using mouth wash before sex can increase the risk
Sharing sex toys such as vibrators or dildos can facilitate the spread of HIV. If you share sex toys, cover them with a condom before use (or change the condom between sharing). Always wash the sex toy thoroughly after use.
You cannot get HIV by giving blood. In Ireland, there is no risk in receiving blood or blood products as all donated blood is screened.
Safer Sex can prevent HIV