HIV and AIDSDiagnosis

The only way to find out if you have HIV is to have an HIV test, as symptoms of HIV may not appear for many years. Anyone who thinks they could have HIV should get tested.


HIV is a virus that damages your immune system. If not treated, it can cause AIDS, where you become too weak to fight off life-threatening infections.


HIV often starts with a flu-like illness. After that, you might have no symptoms for many years, but the damage to your immune system continues.


HIV is spread through body fluids like semen, vaginal fluids, blood and breast milk. In the UK, it's mainly caught by having sex without a condom.


There's no cure for HIV, but medicines called antiretrovirals can control the virus and prevent further damage.


You can reduce your risk of HIV by using a condom for sex and not sharing needles or syringes.

Page last reviewed: 03/04/2018
Next review due: 03/04/2021