Huge advances have been made in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of HIV since it was first discovered in the 1980s and in the UK, the UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets are being met.1 HIV is now a manageable chronic health condition and is treated with antiretroviral medications.2 Treatment has come so far that it can now reduce the level of HIV virus in the body (known as the viral load) to such low levels that blood tests cannot detect it. This is known as undetectable. People living with HIV whose viral load is confirmed as undetectable cannot pass on HIV to their sexual partner.3

Knowledge is power

Watch the story of how HIV affects the body and how treatments fight back.

Thanks to the huge achievements in HIV treatment achieved by the scientific, health care and patient communities, drugs are easier to take and are highly effective at reducing levels of the virus in the body. In fact, they reduce the virus to such low levels that people with HIV who are on effective treatment cannot pass it on through sexual contact with others. HIV drugs are also highly effective at preventing HIV negative people from acquiring the virus. However, efforts to ensure that people with HIV know their status and can access care, and efforts to ensure all people at risk of HIV have access to prevention tools, are still undermined by stigma and discrimination related to HIV, and facing the communities most affected by HIV. We need public attitudes to catch up with the science and move towards a stigma free future!

Laura Waters, Consultant GU/HIV Medicine, HIV & hepatitis lead CNWL, Mortimer Market Centre and Chair of British HIV Association

Thanks to the huge achievements in HIV treatment achieved by the scientific, health care and patient communities, drugs are easier to take and are highly effective at reducing levels of the virus in the body. In fact, they reduce the virus to such low levels that people with HIV who are on effective treatment cannot pass it on through sexual contact with others. HIV drugs are also highly effective at preventing HIV negative people from acquiring the virus. However, efforts to ensure that people with HIV know their status and can access care, and efforts to ensure all people at risk of HIV have access to prevention tools, are still undermined by stigma and discrimination related to HIV, and facing the communities most affected by HIV. We need public attitudes to catch up with the science and move towards a stigma free future!

Laura Waters, Consultant GU/HIV Medicine, HIV & hepatitis lead CNWL, Mortimer Market Centre and Chair of British HIV Association

What is HIV?4

  • HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It is a virus that attacks the immune system, our body’s natural defence against illness
  • If HIV is left untreated, a person’s immune system will get weaker and weaker until it can no longer fight off life-threatening infections and diseases
  • HIV is found in semen, blood, vaginal and anal fluids, and breastmilk

What is AIDS?4

AIDS stands for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. AIDS is the most advanced stage of an HIV infection, when the immune system can no longer fight infections. Someone with AIDS has both HIV and at least one of a specific list of ‘AIDS-defining’ diseases, which may include tuberculosis, pneumonia and/or some types of cancer.

Viral load and undetectability

IF A PERSON WITH HIV IS ON EFFECTIVE TREATMENT, WITH AN UNDETECTABLE VIRAL LOAD, THEY CANNOT PASS ON HIV TO THEIR PARTNER THROUGH SEXUAL CONTACT3

It’s possible for HIV treatment to reduce the level of HIV in the body to such low levels that blood tests cannot detect it. People living with HIV whose viral load is confirmed as undetectable cannot pass on HIV to their partner through sexual contact.3

Treatment and ongoing research

  • People with HIV can enjoy a long and healthy life by taking antiretroviral treatment.5 Antiretroviral treatments work by stopping the virus replicating in the body. This allows the immune system to recover and prevent further damage.6

 

  • Although there is no cure for HIV, with the right treatment and support, people living with HIV can enjoy long and healthy lives. To do this, it is especially important to commit to taking treatment correctly.7

 

  • There are still gaps in knowledge and understanding around prevention, treatment and ultimately curing HIV but researchers, pharmaceutical companies, the healthcare community and other stakeholders are striving to make further advances.

What can you do to tackle the misunderstanding and stigma surrounding HIV?

  • Educate yourself – start by taking our Tackle HIV Challenge
  • Help to educate your family & friends
  • Correct and address stigmatising behaviour
  • Treat people living with HIV the same way you would treat anyone else
  • Become an official supporter. Please contact us at [email protected] for more information

 

Follow Tackle HIV on social media and help
us tackle the misunderstanding, the stigma and the virus

References

  1. Public Health England. Progress towards ending the HIV epidemic in the United Kingdom. 2018 Report. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/821273/Progress_towards_ending_the_HIV_epidemic_in_the_UK.pdf. Last accessed 26.02.20
  2. World Health Organization. HIV/AIDS. Key Facts. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/hiv-aids. Last accessed 26.02.20
  3. Terrence Higgins Trust. Viral load and being undetectable. https://www.tht.org.uk/hiv-and-sexual-health/about-hiv/viral-load-and-being-undetectable
  4. National AIDS Trust https://www.nat.org.uk/we-inform/do-i-understand-hiv. Last accessed 26.02.20
  5. HIV and AIDS – Treatment. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/hiv-and-aids/treatment/. Last accessed 26.02.20
  6. Is there a cure for HIV/AIDS? https://www.avert.org/about-hiv-aids/what-hiv-aids. Last accessed 26.02.20
  7. What are HIV and AIDS? https://www.avert.org/about-hiv-aids/what-hiv-aids. Last accessed 26.02.20