- What is sexual health?
- What is safe sex?
- Sexual health checks
- Sexually transmissible infections (STI's)
HIV and AIDS
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that can cause an infected person to develop AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). People who are infected with HIV are called "HIV positive".
Over time (usually many years), HIV destroys a person's immune system leaving the body less able to protect itself from disease. Once the immune system has been badly damaged, people are described as having AIDS and can become sick from infections or cancers.
Most people with HIV look and feel well for many years and may not even know they are infected. People who are newly infected with HIV can be highly infectious in the initial period of the illness. Even though they may not experience any symptoms or illness, they may endanger their sexual partners.
How do you get it?
HIV can be passed on if blood, semen or vaginal fluid from an infected person enters the body of an uninfected person. This can happen through:
- unsafe sex (vaginal, anal and oral sex)
- sharing needles and injecting equipment contaminated with blood.
HIV can also be passed from mother to baby during pregnancy, vaginal birth or breastfeeding.
You can't get HIV from kissing, hugging, sharing eating utensils, insect bites, swimming pools, toilet seats, shaking hands or any everyday social contact. There is also no longer a risk of getting HIV through donated blood and blood products (eg. blood transfusion) as all blood, organs, tissues and semen donated in Australia are screened for HIV.
How do I know I have it?
A blood test is the only way of finding out whether you have HIV. It can take up to three months before evidence of HIV infection can be found in the blood, so you will have to wait three months before you can be sure you do not have the virus. During this time, make sure you always practice safe sex. If you think you or your partners have been at risk of HIV infection, you can have a blood test through your local doctor or sexual health clinic. You have the right to a confidential test that uses codes instead of names (so that nobody knows whose blood they are testing except you and the doctor).
What's the treatment?
There is currently no cure for HIV and AIDS; however treatments to reduce the effects of HIV on the immune system and manage other symptoms are available.
What do I do if I think I have put myself at risk?
There are treatments available called Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) that can reduce your chances of getting HIV if you put yourself at high risk of getting infection (such as if you have a condom break with a known HIV positive partner).