HIV is a virus that is mainly transmitted via unprotected sex. While these days its symptoms are manageable, if left untreated it can develop into the life-threatening AIDS virus.

If you’re worried you might have HIV, or you have questions about the virus, it’s vital that you speak to a doctor as soon as possible.

HIV is a virus that affects your immune system’s ability to fight off illnesses. It’s spread through coming into contact with certain bodily fluids of an infected person, most often through unprotected sex.

Over the last few decades, there have been huge advances in HIV treatment, so it’s possible to live a long, healthy life if you contract the virus.

However if you don’t get the treatment you need, your symptoms can progress into AIDS, at which point your immune system is unable to defend your body against infection and serious illness.

Up to 80% of people who contract HIV will experience symptoms of flu around 2-6 weeks after they’re infected.

Getting these symptoms after having unprotected sex does not mean you definitely have HIV, but it does mean you should get yourself checked out.

Symptoms to look out for include:

After this initial illness, there may not be any noticeable symptoms for many years. However, the virus will still be attacking your immune system. Eventually, this will lead to AIDS.

This will severely weaken your immune system. Symptoms may include:

Your body will also be more at risk from infections and serious illnesses. By this stage, your immune system will be so weak that it may not be able to fight them off. This is why it’s important to get treatment before HIV gets to that point.

It’s thought that around 95% cases of HIV in the UK are caused by having unprotected sex. The rest are caused by other actions such as sharing needles, sharing sex toys or breastfeeding.

The virus is found in the blood, semen and vaginal fluid of people with HIV, as well as the lining inside the anus. There’s a greater risk of catching HIV through unprotected vaginal or anal sex than there is from oral sex, although this is still possible.

Other bodily fluids, such as saliva or sweat, don’t contain high enough levels of the virus to pass it on, so HIV can’t be caught through things like kissing or sharing towels.

There’s no cure for HIV, but there is medication you can take to control the virus, protect your immune system and live a long life.

The medication in question is called antiretroviral therapy (ART). These are tablets that prevent the HIV virus from replicating and give your immune system enough of a break to repair itself.

You will have to take them every day and because the virus is good at evolving it may build an immunity to your medication. You may be asked to take a combination of drugs or change regimens over the course of your life in order to ensure they stay effective.

Our doctors can also advise you on steps you can take to safeguard your long-term health, such as quitting smoking and getting regular exercise.