HIV is an infection caused by a virus that attacks the body's immune system.
HIV is most commonly passed on through vaginal or anal sex without a condom. It can also be passed on during childbirth, or transmitted when injecting drug users share needles. In rare cases, HIV can be transmitted through transfusion of infected blood.
HIV is preventable and treatable, but it is not curable. The earlier that someone with HIV gets a diagnosis, the more likely it is that further problems can be prevented.
Condoms and lubricant are a simple and very effective way of preventing HIV infection. You can get free condoms from Brook Cornwall, as well as some GP surgeries and pharmacies.
HIV can’t be tested until four weeks after exposure to the virus. The test does not detect the virus itself but the antibodies that your body has developed to fight it.
If you think you are at risk of HIV it is important to take a test as soon as possible.
Testing for HIV involves taking a small sample of blood for analysis. The test is either sent away to a laboratory and results come back in a few days, or same-day tests can give an instant result. It is also possible to test a saliva sample or to test blood taken from pricking the finger with a needle.
Anyone can get tested for HIV at Brook Cornwall.
If you are over 16, you can order a free HIV test kit to complete at home.
Residents of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly can access services, information, advice and support with HIV from the Eddystone Trust.
An independent sexual health charity based in the South West, UK. The Eddystone Trust achallenges the stigma, discrimination and misinformation associated with HIV and sexual health. They offer a range of services, including: