HIV Information

By Wendy Alam, 15th May 2023

What is HIV?
HIV stands for Human Immuno-deficiency Virus. Once in the body, if left untreated, the virus weakens the immune system by attacking the cells that help the body fight off infections and diseases. There is no cure or vaccine for HIV. However, with early diagnosis, HIV is now a treatable and manageable condition.

HIV can be treated by taking antiretroviral medication. Though it cannot be completely cured, effective treatment means you can live a long healthy life. If you start treatment early, after a few months you should have the virus under control. This means that you cannot transmit HIV to other people through sexual contact

Free HIV testing and treatment are available from the NHS to anyone in the UK.

How is HIV passed on?
HIV is found in blood, cum (semen), vaginal fluids, and breast milk.

The most common ways of transmitting HIV are through unprotected (condomless) sexual intercourse (oral, vaginal, and anal sex), sharing injecting equipment and to a child during birth or pregnancy.

The virus can only be passed to someone else if the person living with HIV has a ‘detectable’ viral load – meaning that the levels of HIV in the person’s blood are high enough to cause onward transmission.

Someone living with diagnosed HIV and taking effective medication can reach a point where the virus is ‘undetectable’ in the blood. This means the levels of HIV are so low they cannot pass the virus on to HIV-negative people.

HIV cannot pass through unbroken skin and is normally transmitted by unprotected (condomless) sex.

HIV cannot get through unbroken skin so there is no risk of passing on HIV from casual social contact.

The virus cannot be passed on from:

-urine or faeces

This means you cannot get HIV from toilets seats, kissing, shaking hands, hugging, or sharing cutlery and you cannot get HIV from mosquitos.

Are there any symptoms of HIV?
The symptoms of a recent infection with HIV can differ from person to person and some people may not get any symptoms at all.

Around one to four weeks after becoming infected with HIV, some people will experience symptoms that can feel like the flu. This may last up to two weeks, and you may only get some of the flu symptoms such as fever, body rash, sore throat, swollen glands, headache, or fatigue – or none at all.

How to know if you have HIV?
The only way to know if you have HIV is to have an HIV test.

BHA offers HIV testing available for Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic residents of Greater Manchester, aged 18 and over, through

Bookable appointments for rapid HIV tests
Home HIV test here
Community settings

If you identify in another way, please order an HIV and Syphilis testing kit available from

You can also get an HIV test at your GP or sexual health (GUM) clinic in Greater Manchester

Preventing HIV
Condom use -
Condoms are one of the most effective ways of preventing HIV (and STI) infection via vaginal and anal sex as well as oral sex. They should be put on before any sexual contact as HIV can be passed on through pre-come, semen (cum), and vaginal fluid.

Condoms come in varying sizes, textures, and materials, so have some fun experimenting to find the right one for you!

What to do when a condom breaks? If the condom splits or slips off during sex you or your partner could be at risk of unwanted pregnancy, HIV, or another sexually transmitted infection.

You could take emergency contraception to reduce the risk of pregnancy or Post-exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) to reduce the risk of becoming HIV positive – but you need to act fast. You should also consider:

Having an STI test.
Taking preventive medication or effective treatments
Being HIV positive and having an undetectable viral load means you won’t pass on HIV to your partners. When an HIV-positive person takes their treatment, within 6 months, they can become undetectable.

So, if an HIV-positive person is on treatment and has an undetectable viral load there is zero risk of transmission. Undetectable = Untransmittable.

PEP stands for Post-Exposure Prophylaxsis and can stop HIV infection after the virus has entered the body. It is not guaranteed to work but has a very high success rate. PEP must be started no later 72 hours following the exposure to HIV. PEP can be accessed from your local sexual health clinic (GUM) or Accident and Emergency department.

What is PrEP? PrEP is a pill that protects against HIV. It will enable you to take charge of your sexual health and plan a safer and more enjoyable sex life without worrying about HIV. It involves taking a pill that you can either take before and after sex OR daily to protect you from HIV.

Antiretroviral therapy (ART) is not only good for your health – it also protects your partners.

U=U means that you don’t need to use condoms if you were only using them to stop HIV transmission.

The scientific evidence is clear that effective treatment reduces HIV transmission risk to zero.

BHA supports the Consensus Statement on the risks of sexual transmission of HIV from a person living with HIV who has an undetectable viral load.

For at least 20 years we have known that ART reduces HIV transmission.

Early diagnosis and treatment with ART not only restores people living with HIV to a normal life expectancy but also shows that people living with HIV who are on treatment and have a suppressed viral load do not transmit HIV to their sexual partners. This means if you are living with HIV and have an undetectable viral load, you don’t have to worry about passing on HIV.

BHA believes that this provides even more reason for every person to know his or her HIV status, and where appropriate, start and maintain treatment.

BHA strongly believes that treatment is a very personal choice. Some people living with HIV may not be ready to start treatment or struggle with adherence for a variety of reasons.

No one should feel shame or embarrassment for not being on treatment or having any level of viral load which may be their choice or due to circumstances that are not in their control.

Stigma, discrimination and numerous social barriers may make it difficult or impossible to reach an undetectable viral load. Everyone living with HIV, regardless of viral load, has the right to full and healthy social, sexual and reproductive lives.

For more information, and to book an HIV test, order an at home HIV test, or order condoms, please visit the BHA website here, where they have provided this information -

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