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HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus)

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that damages the body’s immune system making it hard to fight off infections in the body. Over time, HIV can develop into AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome).

HIV lives in four kinds of bodily fluids:

  • blood
  • semen (cum, including pre-cum)
  • vaginal fluid
  • breast milk

How is it passed on?

  • Unprotected anal or vaginal sex
  • Sharing sex toys
  • Sharing needles / drug injecting equipment
  • Non-sterile (unclean) tattooing and body piercing equipment
  • HIV infected mother to baby during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding


Many people with HIV don’t show symptoms for many years. The only way to tell if you have HIV is to get tested. Some symptoms after the first few weeks of infection may include:

  • flu-like symptoms (tiredness, muscle aches, fever)
  • night sweats
  • rash
  • swollen glands

How is it tested?

  • Blood test

An important benefit of getting tested is early diagnosis, which enables early treatment.

How is it treated?

  • If found early, antiretroviral treatment can slow the infection and delay or prevent the development of AIDS.
  • Antiretroviral treatment not only improves health and wellbeing but also reduces the risk of transferring HIV to others.
  • Your sexual partner/s will need to be tested and advised of treatment options.

You cannot get HIV from:

  • physical contact such as hugging, shaking hands, toilet seats, or sharing utensils, cups and glasses
  • bodily fluids such as saliva, sweat or tears
  • insect or mosquito bites

How can I prevent getting it?

  • Use a condom during vaginal or anal sex and when sharing sex toys.
  • Never share needles or other injecting equipment.
  • Only have tattooing and piercing done by licenced, trained professionals.

Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) can help prevent HIV infection if taken within 72 hours after being exposed to the virus. If you have been exposed to HIV, visit your doctor, hospital A&E department, or sexual health clinic immediately. For further information about PEP call 1800 PEP NOW (1800 737 669). The service operates 24 hours.