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HealthInfo Canterbury

HIV & Aids

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. Being HIV positive means that you have become infected with the virus.

HIV infection can only be passed on through body fluids. However, saliva, sweat and urine do not carry enough of the virus to infect another person, so for example, HIV can't be passed on through kissing.

Using a condom during sex is the best way to protect yourself from getting or passing on HIV.

The HIV virus infects and damages CD4 cells, which are an important part of your immune system. If enough CD4 cells are infected and damaged, your body won't be able to fight off certain germs, which can lead to infection and illness. When HIV has reached this stage, you have Aids, or acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

In the developed world, HIV is no longer a death sentence. There have been huge advances in knowledge and medication in the past 30 years. Someone in New Zealand who is diagnosed with HIV can expect to live a long and fulfilled life, if they follow their doctors' advice and take all their medication.

The earlier in the disease you are diagnosed, the earlier you can start treatment, and the more likely you are to live a long and healthy life. This is why it is important to get tested. You can have an HIV test through your GP, family planning clinic or sexual health clinic.

All pregnant women in New Zealand are offered HIV testing as part of their antenatal blood tests. When you're pregnant it's important to know if you are HIV positive, so you can take medicines that make it much less likely you'll pass HIV to your baby.

Being diagnosed with HIV can be scary and isolating, but it doesn't need to be. It is important to get the right support and find out as much as you can about the disease so that you can make good decisions about your life and treatment.

You'll find lots of information about HIV, Aids, and organisations that can help in the links below.

  HealthInfo recommends the following pages

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Updated September 2016.

Page reference: 47045

Review key: HIHIV-47045