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Support for children with HIV
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immune
deficiency syndrome (AIDS)
HIV is the virus that leads to AIDS. People who
have the virus may appear to be well and healthy for many years.
People are often unaware that they have become infected.
AIDS is a collection of life-threatening
conditions which occur as a result of HIV infection damaging the
immune system, the body's natural defence against disease and
What are the symptoms?
There may not be any symptoms for many years but as the HIV
infection damages the immune system, various minor illnesses
appear. These include night sweats, swollen glands, weight loss,
skin problems, thrush and stomach problems. As the illness
progresses, more serious infections occur, including cancers,
pneumonia and diseases that affect the brain. All of these
conditions are potentially life-threatening.
How could I get it?
HIV is found in blood, semen, vaginal secretions and breast
milk. Any activity that allows these fluids to be received from any
infected person may result in transmission. The greatest risk of
infection comes from unprotected sexual intercourse (vaginal or
anal) and sharing needles for injecting. There have been a few
cases where HIV may have been transmitted through oral sex. A
mother with HIV may pass the virus on to her baby either before or
during the birth and breast feeding can also increase the risk of
Can it be treated?
Free and confidential HIV testing is available from most GUM
clinics. Early detection is essential. There is currently no cure
or vaccine for HIV. However, there are very effective drugs that
can help to control the viral infection. Knowing your HIV status
helps with monitoring your health and prescribing the right drugs
when necessary. Drug treatment can help to prevent a pregnant woman
passing the virus to her baby during pregnancy and childbirth.
Can I prevent it?
The main ways to prevent HIV transmission are to use condoms for
penetrative sex and not sharing needles for injecting drugs. To
reduce the risk further, a condom may be worn for oral sex.
Stronger condoms and water-based lubricants are also recommended
for anal sex.
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