HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks the immune system and weakens the body's natural way to fight infections.
Signs and symptoms
Soon after getting HIV infection, some people may feel as if they have the flu. They may have a fever, headache, tiredness and a rash. Others may not. Sometimes people start getting illnesses years after they first get infected. People with HIV can look and feel healthy. Many people don't realise they have it because they don't feel or see anything wrong. If a person has a blood test to check if they have HIV, it can sometimes take up to three months (after infection) for the virus to show up on the blood test.
You are at risk if you have anal or vaginal sex without a condom or share needles, syringes or other injecting equipment with someone who has HIV. If you are HIV-positive and pregnant and are not on treatment, there is a risk that your baby may be born with HIV.
What can happen
If left untreated, HIV can cause AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome), a syndrome which occurs when the body's immune system is damaged and cannot fight off infections and cancer.
Currently there is no vaccine or cure for HIV, but people who are HIV-positive can take daily medications which keep HIV under control.
There are services for people with HIV that provide medical, social, emotional and other kinds of support. For more information about HIV and AIDS contact the WA AIDS Council on (08) 9482 0000 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the WA AIDS Council website (external site). To find a health service near you go to Find a Service.
- Always use condoms or dams and water-based lubricant.
- If you choose to inject drugs, avoid sharing needles, syringes or any drug injecting equipment. Always use your own new, sterile needles and syringes and sterile water. Also use your own spoon, swabs, filters, and tourniquets. Wash your hands or wipe your fingers with a new alcohol swab before and after injecting yourself or another person. You can get needles and syringes from most chemists, needle and syringe exchanges, and at country hospitals after hours. Go to Healthy WA (external site) for more information.
- Before considering any body art (such as tattooing or piercing) make sure the body artist uses only sterilised equipment, and new razors, inks and needles each time.
- Don't share personal items such as razors or toothbrushes as they can carry traces of infected blood.