What is HIV?
HIV is the human immunodeficiency virus, which can affect anyone.
The virus affects the immune system. When the virus weakens the immune system to the point it can no longer fight infections, this leads to acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). A person with AIDS is highly susceptible to infections and cancers, which can cause premature death.
HIV and AIDS are not the same. Most guys living with HIV who use treatment will never develop AIDS.
How do you get HIV?
HIV spreads when body fluids containing enough of the virus enter another person’s bloodstream.
HIV is only present in blood, semen (cum and precum), anal mucous, breast milk and vaginal or front hole fluids.
The most common way HIV spreads is through fucking without a condom. It can also spread through sharing injecting equipment.
Having other STIs can increase the risk of getting HIV.
Oral sex is extremely low risk for HIV. The risk of HIV from oral sex can increase if there are cuts or sores in your mouth or bleeding gums.
You cannot get HIV from kissing, touching, or sharing eating utensils.
You cannot get HIV from sex with someone living with HIV who has maintained an undetectable viral load for at least six months.
What are the symptoms of HIV?
When a person acquires HIV and becomes HIV positive, the process is called seroconversion.
Some guys have no symptoms at all when they get HIV.
If symptoms do appear, it is usually about four weeks after exposure. Symptoms are often described as a flu-like illness and may include:
- sore throat
- swollen glands
- rapid weight loss
- a continuous dry cough
- loss of appetite
- a cold without a runny nose
How do I get tested for HIV?
HIV tests have a window period of up to six weeks for laboratory tests and up to three months for other tests. This means HIV may not be detected by a test if you have been exposed within this time. This is one reason it’s important to test regularly for HIV and other STIs.
There are several ways you can test for HIV:
- Laboratory-based blood test
- Rapid HIV test
- Dried blood spot (DBS) test (New South Wales only)
- HIV self-test
See HIV TESTING for details of the different types of HIV testing and how you can find them.
How is HIV treated?
HIV requires medical treatment. If left untreated, HIV can be harmful to your body and cause premature death.
Once you have HIV, the virus will remain in your body. It can be effectively managed with treatment so that living with HIV can still lead to a full and healthy life.
It’s best to start HIV treatment as soon as possible. Treatment involves using HIV medication, which reduces the amount of virus in your body. This is known as being undetectable or having an undetectable viral load (UVL). As long as you stay on treatment and maintain a UVL, the virus will remain suppressed. Maintaining a UVL for at least six months makes it impossible to sexually transmit HIV to other people.
Contact previous sexual partners to let them know they may have been exposed to HIV and should get tested.
See HIV TREATMENT for details on what treatment involves.
What are the best ways to prevent HIV?
There are four main ways to prevent HIV:
- Using condoms
- Using daily, periodic or on-demand PrEP
- Maintaining your own, or relying on a partner’s undetectable viral load (UVL)
- Using PEP when it’s needed
See HIV PREVENTION for details on how to stop the spread of HIV.