What is HIV?

HIV stand for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It is a germ that weakens your immune system (your body’s natural defense to infections) and can cause serious illness. People who leave HIV untreated can develop AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) which can lead to death. HIV is considered a blood borne virus (BBV), which means it is carried in the blood. However it can also be considered a sexually transmissible infection.


HIV can cause flu-like symptoms in the first few weeks after a person has become infected.  Other symptoms may include:

  • Extreme tiredness
  • Fever
  • Swollen lymph glands
  • Loss of appetite
  • Aching muscles and joints

Why you need to see a doctor if you have been at risk of HIV

If you think you have been at a high risk of HIV, you should talk to your doctor as soon as possible or visit http://getpep.info/ to find locations across Australia where this medication is available.  There is medication that can stop HIV from staying in your body, if you take the medication within 72 hours of when you were at risk. If it has been longer than 72 hours since you have been at risk of HIV, you should get tested for HIV.  Evidence shows that in general, the sooner you start treatment for HIV, the better your health will be long term.  HIV can cause your immune system to be weak and allow other infections to affect your health, it can cause death if not treated.


HIV can be spread through unprotected sex and blood to blood contact (usually from using tattooing, piercing or injecting equipment that is not sterile).  Using condoms or dams and lubricant every time you have vaginal, anal or oral sex will reduce your risk of getting HIV and other STIs.  Not sharing sharp equipment like razors, or needles will also reduce your risk of getting HIV.


If you have had sex without a condom, you may be at risk of HIV.  You should go to a doctor to be tested.  The doctor will then send you for a blood test.


There is no cure for HIV but there is treatment available.  Many people with HIV live long lives when they are on treatment.  Treatment can also reduce the risk of passing HIV on to others.

For more information

Talk to your doctor or local health clinic.

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