HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a retrovirus that can lead to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS), a condition in which the immune system begins to fail, leading to life-threatening infections we ordinarily would be able to fight naturally.

Infection with HIV occurs by the transfer of blood, semen, vaginal fluid, pre-ejaculate, and breast milk. HIV is spread by sexual contact with an infected person, by sharing needles and/or syringes (mainly for drug use) with someone who is infected, or through transfusions of infected blood. Babies born to HIV-infected women may become infected before or during birth or through breast-feeding after birth. Having unprotected vaginal or anal sex poses a risk for catching HIV. Getting HIV through oral sex (both giving and receiving) is possible but very rare.

How is HIV / AIDS treated?

There is currently no cure for HIV or AIDS. However the condition is not longer considered to be life threatening if detected early and properly managed by specialists. Treatment consists of highly active anti-retroviral therapy (HAART), and advances continue to be made improving both quality of life and prognosis. If you have tested positive for HIV you must immediately contact your GP or GUM clinic.

What is Hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is a viral infection of the liver, which can follow a variable course. The hepatitis B virus (HBV) can cause an acute illness that resolves itself quickly without causing long-term liver damage. However, in about 20% of cases it can cause a chronic illness that lasts more than six months, sometimes for life, with symptoms that come and go. In 15-40% of those with chronic infection cirrhosis, liver cancer or liver failure develop, and so the infection may eventually be fatal.

The virus is usually transmitted through contact with infected blood or body fluids. Only a tiny amount of blood is needed to transmit the virus because it’s so infectious.

The hepatitis B virus may also be present in saliva, vaginal secretions, breast milk and other bodily fluids. In the UK, infection commonly occurs through unprotected sexual intercourse, the sharing of contaminated needles by drugs users, accidental injury with a contaminated needle (if needles used for tattooing, body piercing or acupuncture are contaminated) and sharing razors.

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