In 2010, an estimated 91,500 people were living with HIV in the UK. Of these, around a quarter were unaware of their HIV infection.
The overall proportion of people living with HIV in the UK is estimated to be 1 in 650; with the proportion of men living with HIV in the UK is estimated to be 1 in 500, while the proportion of women living with HIV in the UK is estimated to be 1 in 1000.
So, why is it so vitally important to test for HIV as soon as possible?
The sad fact is that hundreds of people a year die because they test for HIV too late. The earlier you know you have the virus, the more you are able to do about it to ensure you stay healthy and get the medications you need. If caught early enough, most people with HIV can have the same life span as someone without the virus. It's also important to test as soon as possible because HIV treatment reduces your ability to pass along the virus to others.
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Ways of contracting HIV are HIV can be passed on through infected blood, semen, vaginal fluids or breast milk. The most common ways HIV is passed on are:
- Sex without a condom/Dental Dam with someone who has HIV
- Sharing infected needles, syringes or other injecting drug equipment
- A HIV-positive mother can pass the virus to her child during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding if the right steps to prevent infection are not taken (the steps that can be taken to reduce the possibility of the child contracting HIV to less than one per cent, include giving the mother and child anti-retroviral HIV drugs, delivering the child by Cesarean and not breastfeeding)
You cannot contract HIV through sharing utensils, kissing/cuddling, coughing/sneezing/spitting, toilet seats, pools, saunas etc.
To keep yourself safe and minimise the rise of catching HIV or any other STIs/STDs, always use a condom when having vaginal or anal sex. You also may want to use a condom or dental dam during oral sex. We carry a wide selection of condoms and dental dams here at Sh!, so you can find the right ones to suit you!
If you use needles/syringes/piercing or tattoo equipment for whatever reasons, then make sure they are sterile and have not been used by anyone else.
It is completely free for everyone to get tested for HIV in England and many clinics now offer rapid testing where they use a finger-prick or saliva to determine your HIV status. There is a 4 week window between contracting the virus and it being detected by testing, but it is still important to go straight to your GP/Sexual health clinic for help and advice.
Be happy, stay safe and look after your sexual health.
For more information on HIV/AIDs:
Terrence Higgins Trust
National AIDS Trust
Statistics taken from the National AIDs Trust website.