What is HIV?

H = human – people get it
I =  Immunodeficiency – attacks the body’s defence (immune) system
V = virus – a bug that can make you sick

How do I get HIV?

HIV travels in blood and some other body fluids like semen, vaginal fluids and breastmilk. The virus is passed from person to person when blood that has the virus is able to get inside a person through a cut and mixes with the other person’s blood.

Common way for the virus to get into the body are:

  • Unsafe sex (e.g. not using a condom)
  • Sharing drug injecting equipment (needles, syringes, spoons etc)
  • Unsterile body piercing and tattooing
  • Breastmilk
  • Direct blood-to-blood contact

You cannot get the virus by:

  • Hugging someone
  • Coughing or sneezing
  • Sharing food or drink
  • Eating food made by someone with the virus
  • Using the same toilet or shower with a person who has the virus
  • Insect or animal bites
  • Day to day contact with people who have the virus
  • Swimming pools, gyms

You cannot know by looking at someone if they have HIV or not. And people do not always know they have HIV either because they feel well.

What does the virus do to the body?

The immune system is like an army in the body that protects us from lots of different infections (sicknesses) and keeps us well and healthy.

When HIV gets into the body, it attacks the immune system. The virus makes thousands of copies of itself and then kills the fighter cells in the immune system. This makes the body weak and the immune system cannot fight off infections.

Where can I get help and advice?

There are many organisations in Australia that can give you help and advice and support. Many people who work at these organisations have HIV too so they can understand how you may be feeling.

Get support from community

Get advise and help from community organisations in your area

Find out more about diseases