Basics

First identified in the 1980s, HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that infects the body’s white blood cells and stops the immune system from functioning properly.

The virus is present in:

HIV is primarily transmitted in three ways:

Without medical care and treatment, a person with HIV risks developing serious infections and diseases that a healthy immune system would fight off. These opportunistic infections might lead to an AIDS diagnosis (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome), but AIDS is now rarely found in the UK as early diagnosis and treatment means fewer people than ever now reach that stage. For example, in 2016, only 5 people in Scotland were diagnosed with AIDS. Treatment is such that in many wealthy countries, HIV – while still a serious condition with no known cure – is not a death sentence. In fact, with early diagnosis and ongoing treatment, people with HIV can live long and healthy lives.