HIV and AIDS are not the same.

AIDS: Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome – is the name used to describe a combination of potentially life-threatening infections and cancers, which can develop when someone’s immune system has been damaged by HIV.

You cannot catch AIDS – HIV causes AIDS and it is HIV that can be passed on.

Being diagnosed with AIDS means different things for different people. Just because someone has AIDS does not mean they will die – but it is essential to have medical care and treatment.

HIV: Human Immunodeficiency Virus – attacks the body’s immune system gradually causing damage. Without treatment, the immune system will become too weak to fight off illness and infection.

There is currently no cure for HIV. Major advances in treatment mean that many people can lead long and healthy lives, although some may experience side effects from the treatment.

HIV is present in blood, genital fluids (semen, vaginal fluids and moisture in the rectum) and breast milk.

The main ways HIV can be passed on to someone else are:

During unprotected anal, vaginal and oral sex,

By sharing injecting equipment, and

From a mother to her baby during pregnancy, birth or through breastfeeding.

But there are ways of preventing HIV infection in all of these situations.

The Symptoms of HIV vary from person to person. The only way to be sure if you have HIV is to have an HIV test. You cannot tell from symptoms alone.

An HIV test is the only way to know if you have HIV. Early diagnosis enables better treatment outcomes and reduces the risk of onward transmission. People diagnosed late have a much higher risk of developing complex health conditions including HIV associated brain impairment.

HIV tests are available in lots of healthcare settings. This might be in a sexual health clinic, doctor’s surgery, hospital or private clinic, for example. In many countries, there are also places where you can be tested in your local community.

In the UK, you can get a free and confidential HIV test at any NHS sexual health or GUM (genitourinary medicine) clinic. These clinics are linked into specialist HIV services, and there will be support available to you if your result is positive.

Mildmay Hospital - 24Feb15

Mildmay Hospital – 24Feb15

Current treatment for HIV – antiretroviral drugs, work by reducing the amount of HIV in the body so the immune system can work normally. This doesn’t get rid of HIV completely, but with the right treatment and care, someone with HIV can expect to live a long and healthy life.

Did you know? The first two years of a partner study has shown that no-one with an undetectable viral load, on effective HIV treatment, gay or heterosexual, transmits HIV. (final study results due in 2017)



HIV Associated Brain Impairment:

Mildmay specialises in the treatment of HAND, (HIV Associated Neurocognative Disorder) impairment caused by HIV entering and affecting the brain. This is a form of severe dementia which Mildmay is able to reverse in over 80% of our patients, enabling them to return to independent living. People with HAND often display symptoms that are very similar to dementia such as memory loss, confusion, loss of a sense of self, difficulty in walking, speaking or carrying out every day tasks. Mildmay’s specialised treatment, care and rehabilitation includes highly skilled medical and nursing care, treatment, rehabilitation and a combined range of therapies.

HIV in the UK:

Around 103,700 people were living with HIV at the end of 2014.

Of these 17% are undiagnosed and remain at risk of of passing on HIV if they have sex without a condom.

The fastest growing group of people living with HIV are those aged 55 and over, with one in six people now accessing care for the condition.

London has the largest numbers of people living with HIV, but numbers are growing in every part of the UK.

HIV Pregnancy and Birth –  In the UK with the right treatment and care, 99% of women living with HIV give birth to healthy babies without passing on HIV.


36.9 million people are living with HIV worldwide and 17.1 million do not know they have the virus.

Around 22 million people living with HIV do not have access to treatment.

Sub-Saharan Africa has the most serious HIV and AIDS epidemic in the world. In 2013, an estimated 24.7 million people were living with HIV, accounting for 71% of the global total.

For more detailed information on HIV visit

UK figures: Public Health England

All global figures from UNAIDS and Avert:

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