Introduction

HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system, and weakens your ability to fight infections and disease. It's most commonly caught by having sex without a condom.

It can also be passed on by sharing infected needles and other injecting equipment, and from an HIV-positive mother to her child during pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding.

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. The virus attacks the immune system, and weakens your ability to fight infections and disease.

There is no cure for HIV, but there are treatments to enable most people with the virus to live a long and healthy life.

AIDS is the final stage of HIV infection, when your body can no longer fight life-threatening infections. With early diagnosis and effective treatment, most people with HIV will not go on to develop AIDS.

How do you get HIV?

HIV is found in the body fluids of an infected person, which includes semen, vaginal and anal fluids, blood, and breast milk. It is a fragile virus and does not survive outside the body for long.

HIV cannot be transmitted through sweat or urine.

The most common way of getting HIV in the UK is by anal or vaginal sex without a condom. According to statistics from Public Health England, 95% of those diagnosed with HIV in the UK in 2013 acquired HIV as a result of sexual contact.

Other ways of getting HIV include:

  • using a contaminated needle, syringe or other injecting equipment
  • transmission from mother to baby during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding

It's also possible for HIV to spread through oral sex and sharing sex toys, although the chances of this happening are very low. For example, it's estimated that you only have a 1 in 5,000 chance of getting HIV if you give unprotected oral sex to someone with the infection.

Read more about what causes HIV

Getting tested for HIV

Seek medical advice as soon as possible if you think you might have been exposed to HIV.

The only way to find out if you have HIV is to have an HIV test. This involves testing a sample of your blood or saliva for signs of the infection.

It's important to be aware that:

  • emergency anti-HIV medication called PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) may stop you becoming infected if started within 3 days of possible exposure to the virus, and starting it as soon as possible is recommended
  • an early diagnosis means you can start treatment sooner, which can improve your chances of controlling the condition
  • HIV tests may need to be repeated one to three months after potential exposure to HIV infection (this is known as the "window period"), but you shouldn't wait this long to seek help
  • you can get tested in a number of places, including your GP surgery, sexual health clinics and clinics run by charities 
  • clinic tests can sometimes give you a result in minutes, although it may take a few days to get the result of a more detailed blood test
  • home-testing or home-sampling kits are available to buy or order online or from pharmacies – depending on the type of test you use, your result will be available in a few minutes or a few days

If your first test suggests you have HIV, a further blood test will need to be carried out to confirm the result. If this is positive, you'll be referred to a specialist HIV clinic for some more tests and a discussion about your treatment options.

Read more about diagnosing HIV

Treating and living with HIV

Although there is no cure for HIV, treatments are now very effective, enabling people with HIV to live long and healthy lives.

Medication, known as antiretrovirals, work by stopping the virus replicating in the body, allowing the immune system to repair itself and preventing further damage. These medicines come in the form of tablets, which need to be taken every day.

HIV is able to develop resistance to a single HIV drug very easily, but taking a combination of different drugs makes this much less likely. Most people with HIV take a combination of 3 antiretrovirals and it is vital that the medications are taken every day as recommended by your doctor.

For people living with HIV, taking effective antiretroviral therapy (where the HIV virus is "undetectable" in blood tests) will significantly reduce the risk of passing on HIV to sexual partners. It is rare for a pregnant woman living with HIV to transmit it to their babies, provided they receive timely and effective antiretroviral therapy and medical care.

You will also be encouraged to take regular exercise, eat a healthy diet, stop smoking and have yearly flu jabs to minimise the risk of getting serious illnesses.

Without treatment, the immune system will become severely damaged and life-threatening illnesses such as cancer and severe infections can occur. This is known as late-stage HIV infection or AIDS.

Read more about living with HIV

Preventing HIV

Anyone who has sex without a condom or shares needles is at risk of HIV infection.

The best way to prevent HIV is to use a condom for sex and to never share needles or other injecting equipment (including syringes, spoons and swabs). Knowing your HIV status and that of your partner is also important.

For people with HIV, effective antiretroviral therapy significantly reduces the risk of passing HIV to sexual partners.

How common is HIV?

At the end of 2014, there were an estimated 103,700 people in the UK living with HIV. The majority were infected through sex (43,000 gay and bisexual men and 54,100 heterosexuals).

An estimated 17% of people with HIV (18,100) do not know they are infected.

Around 1 in every 620 people in the UK has HIV, but the 2 groups with highest rates of HIV are gay and bisexual men (approximately 1 in 20) and Black African heterosexuals (approximately 1 in 56 men and 1 in 22 women).

The World Health Organization estimates that around 35 million people in the world are living with HIV. The virus is more common in many sub-Saharan African countries.

Symptoms

Most people who are infected with HIV experience a short, flu-like illness that occurs 2 to 6 weeks after infection. After this, HIV often causes no symptoms for several years.

The flu-like illness that often occurs a few weeks after HIV infection is also known as seroconversion illness. It's estimated that up to 80% of people who are infected with HIV experience this illness.

The most common symptoms are:

  • fever (raised temperature)
  • sore throat
  • body rash

Other symptoms can include:

  • tiredness
  • joint pain
  • muscle pain
  • swollen glands (nodes)

The symptoms usually last 1 to 2 weeks but can be longer. They are a sign that your immune system is putting up a fight against the virus. 

However, these symptoms are most commonly caused by conditions other than HIV, and do not mean you have the virus.

If you have several of these symptoms, and you think you have been at risk of HIV infection within the past few weeks, you should get an HIV test.

After the initial symptoms disappear, HIV will often not cause any further symptoms for many years. During this time, known as asymptomatic HIV infection, the virus continues to be active and causes progressive damage to your immune system. This process can take about 10 years, during which you will feel and appear well.

Once the immune system becomes severely damaged symptoms can include:

  • weight loss
  • chronic diarrhoea
  • night sweats
  • skin problems
  • recurrent infections
  • serious life-threatening illnesses

Earlier diagnosis and treatment of HIV can prevent these problems.

Read more about treating HIV

It is recommended you should still take an HIV test if you have put yourself at risk at any time in the past, even if you experience no symptoms.

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Causes

In the UK, most cases of HIV are caused by having sex without a condom with a person who has HIV.

A person with HIV can pass the virus to others whether or not they have any symptoms. People with HIV are more infectious in the weeks following infection.

HIV treatment significantly reduces the risk of someone with HIV passing it on.

Sexual contact

According to Public Health England, 95% of people diagnosed with HIV in the UK in 2011 acquired HIV through sexual contact.

The main routes of transmission are unprotected vaginal and anal sex. It is also possible to catch HIV through unprotected oral sex, but the risk is much lower.

The risk of HIV transmission through oral sex will be higher if the person giving oral sex has mouth ulcers, sores or bleeding gums and/or if the person receiving oral sex has been recently infected with HIV (and has a lot of the virus in their body) or another sexually transmitted infection.

The type of sex also makes a difference to the level of risk:

  • performing oral sex on a man with HIV carries some risk, particularly if he ejaculates (comes) in your mouth
  • it is possible to catch HIV by performing oral sex on a woman with HIV, particularly if she is having a period, although this is considered to be extremely low risk
  • receiving oral sex from someone who has HIV is also extremely low risk as HIV is not transmitted through saliva

Other risk behaviours

Other ways of getting HIV include:

  • sharing needles, syringes and other injecting equipment 
  • from mother to baby before or during birth or by breastfeeding
  • sharing sex toys with someone infected with HIV
  • healthcare workers accidentally pricking themselves with an infected needle (this risk is extremely low)
  • blood transfusion (now very rare in the UK, but still a problem in developing countries)

How is HIV transmitted

HIV is not passed on easily from one person to another. The virus does not spread through the air like cold and flu viruses.

HIV lives in the blood and in some body fluids. To get HIV, one of these fluids from someone with HIV has to get into your blood.

The body fluids that contain enough HIV to infect someone are:

  • semen
  • vaginal fluids, including menstrual blood
  • breast milk
  • blood
  • lining inside the anus

Other body fluids, like saliva, sweat or urine, do not contain enough of the virus to infect another person.

The main ways the virus enters the bloodstream are: 

  • by injecting into the bloodstream (with a contaminated needle or injecting equipment)
  • through the thin lining on or inside the anus and genitals
  • through the thin lining of the mouth and eyes
  • via cuts and sores in the skin

HIV is not passed on through:

  • kissing
  • spitting
  • being bitten
  • contact with unbroken, healthy skin
  • being sneezed on
  • sharing baths, towels or cutlery
  • using the same toilets or swimming pools
  • mouth-to-mouth resuscitation
  • contact with animals or insects such as mosquitoes

How HIV infects the body

HIV infects cells of the immune system, the body’s defence system, causing progressive damage and eventually making it unable to fight off infections.

The virus enters cells in the immune system called CD4 cells + ve lymphocyte cells, which protect the body against various bacteria, viruses and other germs.

It uses the CD4 cells to make thousands of copies of itself. These copies then leave the CD4 cells, killing them in the process.

This process continues until eventually the number of CD4 cells, also called your CD4 count, drops so low that your immune system stops working.

This can take about 10 years, during which time you will feel and appear well.

Find out more about the symptoms of HIV

Who is most at risk?

People who are at higher risk of becoming infected with HIV include:

  • men who have had unprotected sex with men
  • women who have had sex without a condom with men who have sex with men
  • people who have had sex without a condom with a person who has lived or travelled in Africa
  • people who inject drugs
  • people who have had sex without a condom with somebody who has injected drugs
  • people who have caught another sexually transmitted infection
  • people who have received a blood transfusion while in Africa, eastern Europe, the countries of the former Soviet Union, Asia or central and southern America

Diagnosis

The only way to find out if you have HIV is to have an HIV test, as symptoms of HIV may not appear for many years.

HIV testing is provided to anyone free of charge on the NHS. Many clinics can give you the result on the same day and home-testing and home-sampling kits are also available.

Who should get tested?

Anyone who thinks they could have HIV should get tested.

Certain groups of people are at particularly high risk and are advised to have regular tests. For example:

  • men who have sex with men are advised to have an HIV test at least once a year, or every 3 months if they're having unprotected sex with new or casual partners
  • black African men and women are advised to have an HIV test, and a regular HIV and STI screen, if they're having unprotected sex with new or casual partners

Other people at an increased risk of infection include those who share needles, syringes or other injecting equipment.

Read more about how you get HIV

When should I get tested?

Seek medical advice immediately if you think there's a chance you could have HIV. The earlier it's diagnosed, the earlier you can start treatment and avoid becoming seriously ill.

Some HIV tests may need to be repeated 1 to 3 months after exposure to HIV infection, but you shouldn't wait this long to seek help. Your GP or a sexual health professional can talk to you about having a test and discuss whether you should take emergency HIV medication.

Anti-HIV medication, called PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) may stop you becoming infected if taken within 72 hours of being exposed to the virus. 

Read more about treating HIV

Where can I get an HIV test?

There are various places you can go to for an HIV test, including:

  • sexual health or genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics 
  • clinics run by charities such as the Terrence Higgins Trust 
  • some GP surgeries
  • some contraception and young people's clinics
  • local drug dependency services
  • an antenatal clinic, if you're pregnant
  • a private clinic, where you will have to pay

There are also home-sampling and home-testing kits (see below) you can use if you don't want to visit any of these places.

Types of HIV test

There are 4 main types of HIV test:

  • Full blood test – where a sample of blood is taken in a clinic and sent for testing in a laboratory. Results are usually available within a few days.
  • "Point of care" test – where a sample of saliva from your mouth or a small spot of blood from your finger is taken in a clinic. This sample doesn't need to be sent to a laboratory and the result is available within a few minutes.
  • Home-sampling kit – where you collect a saliva sample or small spot of blood at home and send it off in the post for testing. You'll be contacted by phone or text with your result in a few days. You can buy them online or from some pharmacies.
  • Home-testing kit – where you collect a saliva sample or small spot of blood yourself and test it at home. The result is available within minutes. It's important to check that any test you buy has a CE quality assurance mark and is licensed for sale in the UK, as poor quality HIV self-tests are available from overseas.

If the test finds no sign of infection, your result is "negative". If signs of infection are found, the result is "positive".

The full blood test is the most accurate test and can normally give reliable results from 1 month after infection. The other tests tend to be less accurate and may not give a reliable result for a longer period after exposure to the infection (this is known as the "window period").

For all these tests, a full blood test should be carried out to confirm the result if the first test is positive. If this test is also positive, you'll be referred to a specialist HIV clinic for some more tests and a discussion about your treatment options.

Treatment

There is no cure for HIV, but there are treatments to enable most people with the virus to live a long and healthy life.

Emergency HIV drugs

If you think you have been exposed to the virus within the last 72 hours (3 days), anti-HIV medication may stop you becoming infected.

For it to be effective, the medication, called post-exposure prophylaxis or PEP, must be started within 72 hours of coming into contact with the virus. It is only recommended following higher risk exposure, particularly where the sexual partner is known to be positive.

The quicker PEP is started the better, ideally within hours of coming into contact with HIV. The longer the wait, the less chance of it being effective.

PEP has been misleadingly popularised as a “morning-after pill” for HIV – a reference to the emergency pill women can take to prevent getting pregnant after having unprotected sex.

But the description is not accurate. PEP is a month-long treatment, which may have serious side effects and is not guaranteed to work. The treatment involves taking the same drugs prescribed to people who have tested positive for HIV.

You should be able to get PEP from:

  • sexual health clinics, or genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics
  • hospitals – usually accident and emergency (A&E) departments

If you already have HIV, try your HIV clinic if the PEP is for someone you’ve had sex with.

Want to know more?

If you test positive

If you are diagnosed with HIV, you will have regular blood tests to monitor the progress of the HIV infection before starting treatment.

This involves monitoring the amount of virus in your blood (viral blood test) and the effect HIV is having on your immune system. This is determined by measuring your levels of CD4+ve lymphocyte cells in your blood. These cells are important for fighting infection. 

Treatment is usually recommended to begin when your CD4 cell count falls towards 350 or below, whether or not you have any symptoms. In some people with other medical conditions, treatment may be started at higher CD4 cell counts. When to start treatment should be discussed with your doctor.

The aim of the treatment is to reduce the level of HIV in the blood, allow the immune system to repair itself and prevent any HIV-related illnesses.

If you are on HIV treatment, the level of the virus in your blood is generally very low and it is unlikely that you will pass HIV on to someone else.

If you have another condition

If you have also been diagnosed with hepatitis B or hepatitis C, it is recommended that you start treatment when your CD4 count falls below 500.

Treatment is recommended to begin at any CD4 count if you are on radiotherapy or chemotherapy that will suppress your immune system, or if you have been diagnosed with certain other illnesses, including:

Antiretroviral drugs

HIV is treated with antiretrovirals (ARVs), these work by stopping the virus replicating in the body, allowing the immune system to repair itself and preventing further damage.

A combination of ARVs is used because HIV can quickly adapt and become resistant to one single ARV.

Patients tend to take 3 or more types of ARV medication. This is known as combination therapy or antiretroviral therapy (ART).

Some antiretroviral drugs have been combined into one pill, known as a "fixed dose combination". This means that the most common treatments for people just diagnosed with HIV involve taking just one or two pills a day.

Different combinations of ARVs work for different people so the medicine you take will be individual to you.

Once HIV treatment is started, you will probably need to take the medication for the rest of your life. For the treatment to be continuously effective, it will need to be taken regularly every day. Not taking ARVs regularly may cause the treatment to fail.

Many of the medicines used to treat HIV can interact with other medications prescribed by your GP or bought over-the-counter. These include herbal remedies such as St John's Wort, as well as recreational drugs.

Always check with your HIV clinic staff or your GP before taking any other medicines.

Want to know more?

Pregnancy

ARV treatment is available to prevent a pregnant woman from passing HIV to her child.

Without treatment, there is a 1 in 4 chance your baby will become infected with HIV. With treatment, the risk is less than one in 100.

Advances in treatment mean there is no increased risk of passing the virus to your baby with a normal delivery. However, for some women, a caesarean section may still be recommended.

If you have HIV, do not breastfeed your baby because the virus can be transmitted through breast milk.

If you or your partner has HIV, speak to an HIV doctor as there are options for safely conceiving a child without putting either of you at risk of infection.

Missing a dose

HIV treatment only works if you take your pills regularly every day. Missing even a few doses will increase the risk of your treatment not working.

You will need to develop a daily routine to fit your treatment plan around your lifestyle.

Want to know more?

Side effects

HIV treatment can have side effects. If you get serious side effects (which is uncommon) you may need to try a different combination of ARVs.

Common side effects include:

  • nausea
  • diarrhoea
  • skin rashes
  • sleep difficulties

Want to know more?

People with HIV get treatment at a specialist HIV clinic which is usually part of a sexual health or infectious diseases clinic at your local hospital.

Services, including support organisations, may work together to provide specialist care and emotional support.

Find out more about living with HIV

Prevention

The best way to prevent HIV is to use a condom for sex and to never share needles or other injecting equipment (including syringes, spoons and swabs).

If you have HIV, you can pass it on to others if you have sex without a condom, or share needles, syringes, or other injecting equipment.

HIV treatment with ART substantially reduces the risk of passing the virus onto someone else.

Knowing your HIV status and that of your partner is important and if you are at regular risk of potential exposure to HIV you should have a regular HIV test.

Sex

HIV can be transmitted by having vaginal or anal sex without a condom. There is also a risk of transmission through oral sex, but this risk is much lower. 

HIV can also be caught from sharing sex toys with someone infected with HIV.

See causes of HIV for more on transmission of HIV.

The best way to prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is to use a condom for penetrative sex and a dental dam for oral sex.

Condoms

Condoms come in a variety of colours, textures, materials and flavours. Both male and female condoms are available.

A condom is the most effective form of protection against HIV and other STIs. It can be used for vaginal and anal sex, and for oral sex performed on men.

HIV can be passed on before ejaculation, through pre-come and vaginal secretions, and from the anus.

It is very important that condoms are put on before any sexual contact occurs between the penis, vagina, mouth or anus.

Lubricant

Lubricant, or lube, is often used to enhance sexual pleasure and safety, by adding moisture to either the vagina or anus during sex.

Lubricant can make sex safer by reducing the risk of vaginal or anal tears caused by dryness or friction, and it can also prevent a condom from tearing.

Only water-based lubricant (such as K-Y Jelly) rather than an oil-based lubricant (such as Vaseline or massage and baby oil) should be used with condoms.

Oil-based lubricants weaken the latex in condoms and can cause them to break or tear.

Dental dams

A dental dam is a small sheet of latex that works as a barrier between the mouth and the vagina or anus to reduce the risk of STIs during oral sex.

Sharing needles and injecting equipment

If you inject drugs, don't share needles or syringes, or other injecting equipment such as spoons and swabs, as this could expose you to HIV and other viruses found in the blood, such as hepatitis C.

Many local authorities and pharmacies offer needle exchange programmes, where used needles can be exchanged for clean ones.

If you are a heroin user, consider enrolling in a methadone programme. Methadone can be taken as a liquid, so it reduces your risk of getting HIV.

A GP or drug counsellor should be able to advise you about both needle exchange programmes and methadone programmes.

If you are having a tattoo or piercing, it's important that a clean, sterilised needle is always used.

Screening for HIV in pregnancy

All pregnant women are offered a blood test to check if they have HIV as part of routine antenatal screening. If untreated, HIV can be passed from a pregnant woman to her baby during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding. Treatment in pregnancy greatly reduces the risk of passing on HIV to the baby.

Living with HIV

Psychological impact of HIV

Being diagnosed with HIV can be extremely distressing, and feelings of anxiety or depression are common. Your HIV clinic can provide you with counselling so that you can fully discuss your condition and your concerns.

You may find it helpful to talk to a trained counsellor or psychologist, or to someone at a specialist helpline. Your HIV clinic will have information about these.

Some people find it helpful to talk to other people who have HIV, either at a local support group or in an internet chatroom.

Want to know more?

Telling people about your HIV

Telling your partner and former partners

If you have HIV, it's important that your current sexual partner or any sexual partners you've had since being exposed to infection are tested and treated.

Some people can feel angry, upset or embarrassed about discussing HIV with their current or former partners. Discuss your concerns with your GP or the clinic staff. They'll be able to advise you about who should be contacted and the best way to contact them, or they may be able to contact them on your behalf. They'll also advise you about disclosing your status to future partners and how you can reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to someone else.

Nobody can force you to tell any of your partners you have HIV, but it's strongly recommended that you do. Left untested and untreated, HIV can have devastating consequences and will eventually lead to death.

Telling your boss

People with HIV are protected under the Equality Act (2010)

There's no legal obligation to tell your employer that you have HIV, unless you have a frontline job in the armed forces or you work in a healthcare role where you perform invasive procedures (as you'll need to be monitored by your occupational health team and HIV doctor to ensure you're not putting your patients at risk of infection).

The Equality Act 2010 also places restrictions on the health questions that employers can ask during a job application process. Employers are allowed to ask health questions only after an offer of employment has been made, to help them decide whether you can carry out tasks that are essential for the job.

If you're asked a question that you think isn't allowed under the Equality Act 2010, you can tell the employer, or you can tell the Equality and Human Rights Commission. The GOV.UK website has more information about questions an employer can ask about health and disability.

If you're an employee with HIV, you may worry that if you tell your employer, your HIV status will become public knowledge or you may be discriminated against. On the other hand, if your boss is supportive, telling them may make it easier for adjustments to be made to your workload or for you to have time off.

Pregnancy

If you have HIV and become pregnant, contact your HIV clinic. This is important because:

  • some anti-HIV medicines can harm babies, so your treatment plan will need to be reviewed
  • additional medicines may be needed to prevent your baby getting HIV

Without treatment, there's a 1 in 4 chance that your baby will develop HIV. With treatment, the risk is less than 1 in 100.

Advances in treatment mean that a normal delivery is now recommended for women who have an undetectable viral count and whose HIV is well managed. For some women, a caesarean section may still be recommended, and may also be indicated for other reasons not related to your HIV.

Discuss the risks and benefits of each delivery method with the staff at your HIV clinic. The final decision about how your baby is delivered is yours and staff will respect that decision.

If you have HIV, don't breastfeed your baby because the virus can be transmitted through breast milk.

If you or your partner has HIV, there may be options available that will allow you to conceive a child without putting either of you at risk of infection. You should ask your HIV doctor for advice.

Want to know more?

Opportunistic infections

If your CD4 count drops below 200, you'll be at risk of developing many different types of infection. Infections that "take advantage" of an HIV-weakened immune system are known as opportunistic infections. However, if you stick to your HIV therapy, the likelihood of developing an opportunistic infection is low.

The 4 main types of opportunistic infections are:

  • bacterial infections, such as pneumonia or tuberculosis (TB) 
  • fungal infections, such as oral thrush and pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP) 
  • parasitical infections, such as toxoplasmosis 
  • viral infections, such as shingles (herpes zoster) 

People with advanced HIV also have a higher risk of developing some forms of cancer, such as lymphoma (cancer of the lymphatic system).

Pneumonia

Bacterial pneumonia is more common in people with HIV, but also occurs in people without HIV, particularly those with chronic respitory conditions. It can develop as a complication of other infections, such as flu. Left untreated, pneumonia can be fatal because the infection can spread through your blood.

Pneumonia can be treated with antibiotics. There's also a vaccine that can protect you against many of the bacteria that can cause pneumonia. Annual flu vaccinations are also recommended for people living with HIV.

Tuberculosis (TB)

Tuberculosis (TB) is another bacterial lung infection. Globally, it's one of the leading causes of death for people who are HIV positive. TB can be treated using antibiotics, but some strains of bacteria have developed antibiotic resistance, and these can be more difficult to treat.

Candidiasis (thrush)

Candidiasis is a fungal infection that's common in people living with HIV. It causes a thick, white coating to appear on the inside of the mouth, tongue, throat or vagina.

Candidiasis is rarely serious but it can be both embarrassing and painful. It can be treated with antifungal creams.

Tell the staff at your HIV clinic if you have repeated bouts of candidiasis because it could be a sign of a low CD4 count.

Pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP)

Pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP) is a fungal infection of the lungs, which can be life-threatening if it isn't treated promptly. Before the advances in anti-HIV medicines, PCP was the leading cause of death among those with HIV in the developed world.

Symptoms of PCP include:

Report any symptoms of PCP straight away because the condition can suddenly worsen without warning. PCP can be treated with antibiotics and, if your CD4 count drops below 200, you may be given antibiotics to prevent a PCP infection.

Cancer

People with advanced HIV have an increased risk of developing some types of cancer. It's estimated that someone with untreated late-stage HIV infection (AIDS) is 100 times more likely to develop certain cancers compared to someone without the condition.

The two most common cancers to affect people with HIV are lymphoma and Kaposi's sarcoma. Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system (a network of glands that makes up part of our immune system). Kaposi's sarcoma can cause lesions to grow on your skin, and can also affect your internal organs.

HIV treatment is important in reducing your risk of cancer and long-term conditions, such as cardiovascular and respiratory disease. If you smoke, giving up is also important in reducing this risk.  

Money and financial support

If you have to stop work or work part time because of HIV, you may find it difficult to cope financially. However, you may be entitled to one or more of the following types of financial support:

Want to know more?