HIV – what you need to know

1.1 Did you know?

HIV is the virus that causes AIDS
There are more than 33 million people worldwide living with HIV/ AIDS
More than half of these people are women and children
HIV/AIDS affects everyone regardless age, skin colour, cultural background or religion
There is no cure for AIDS. If you work in the sex industry and need assistance with these issues, please visit or and speak to someone about your specific circumstances.
Using condoms during anal and vaginal sex, and not sharing needles or other injecting equipment remain the most effective ways to protect yourself from HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
Worldwide, sex between men and women is the main route of HIV transmission.

In Australia

There are currently about 17,000 people living with HIV/AIDS.
Here in Australia, HIV has been transmitted mainly through sex between men. However, transmission through sex between men and women is increasing.

1.2 How can I avoid becoming infected with HIV?

Sexual Intercourse

HIV can be transmitted through tiny invisible cuts and scrapes in the surface of the vagina, penis or anus during unprotected sex with a HIV positive (infected) person.

To avoid transmission of HIV practice SAFE SEX:

Using a new condom and water- based lubricant (eg. KY jelly or Wet stuff) every time you have vaginal or anal sex. This will also protect you from most other sexually transmitted infections.

How to use a condom?

1. Open packet with care to avoid tearing the condom. 2. Squeeze the tip of the condom between your finger and thumb to remove air and roll the condom down the penis (pull back the foreskin if necessary before putting the condom on) 3. Once the condom is on the penis cover with water-based lubricant. 4. Hold the condom at the base of the penis when you withdraw to prevent semen spilling out. 5. Put the condom in the bin.


Injecting drugs, body piercing or tattooing
HIV can be transmitted through sharing needles and syringes and by having body piercing and tattooing done with used needles.

To avoid transmission of HIV when injecting drugs:

Don’t share needles, syringes and other equipment used to inject drugs.

To avoid transmission of HIV when having body piercing and tattooing:

Go to a licensed studio where needles and other equipment are discarded after use or properly sterilised. Doing this will also help protect you from other viruses such as hepatitis B and hepatitis C.

Mother to Child

HIV can be passed on from a HIV positive (infected) mother to her child during pregnancy, childbirth, or through breast feeding. However, many HIV positive (infected) women are now able to have healthy babies by taking medication during pregnancy.

If you are a HIV-positive (infected) woman who is pregnant or planning to have a baby it is important that you talk to your doctor as soon as possible. As HIV is present in breast milk, it is recommended in Australia that HIV positive (infected) mothers do not breast feed their babies. Safe and effective alternatives for feeding babies are available.

Blood transfusions and/or blood products

In Australia, since 1985, blood and all blood products are checked for HIV. People who are HIV-positive (infected) cannot donate blood. However, blood transfusions remain a high risk in some overseas countries.

1.3 What’s the difference between HIV and AIDS?

HIV/AIDS is often written and referred to as one word with one meaning. But HIV and AIDS have two different meanings.
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. This is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system. A person becomes infected with HIV (HIV positive (infected)) when the virus enters their blood stream.

HIV attacks the body’s immune system. If it is not treated, HIV damages the immune system so that it is no longer able to fight off common infections and the person is at great risk of illness and even death. This is the condition known as AIDS, the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.

Being diagnosed with HIV does not necessarily mean a person has AIDS or that they are going to die. Even without treatments, many people can live with HIV for a long time. In addition, improved treatments are available which slow down the damage to the immune system that leads to AIDS. With treatments, many people with HIV are able to remain well, and continue to live healthy, busy and fulfilling lives.
1.4 How can I find out if I have HIV?

You can find out by having a blood test. HIV can usually be detected within three months after becoming infected. In some cases you may be asked to have a second blood test to confirm the test result.

This test is available free at sexual health clinics located all over Australia. At sexual health clinics you do not have to give your name or have a Medicare card. The test is also available from your doctor. Strict confidentiality is guaranteed at all times. Confidentiality means that any information a health or HIV/AIDS organisation has about you is private, and they can’t give that information to other people without your permission.
1.5 How is HIV transmitted?

HIV is found in body fluids such as blood, semen, vaginal fluids and breast milk. Infection with HIV can only occur when body fluids from an infected person enters the blood stream of another person.

HIV CAN BE Transmitted by:

Sex without a condom (unprotected sex).
Sharing needles, syringes and other equipment for injecting drugs.
Unsterile body piercing or tattooing.
Mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth or breast feeding.
Blood transfusion and/or blood products (in Australia blood products have been screened for HIV since 1985).

HIV CANNOT BE transmitted by:
Coughing; kissing; sneezing; spitting; crying; sharing cutlery and crockery; bed linen; toilets, showers; or through any form of casual contact
Insects such as mosquitoes DO NOT transmit HIV.
1.6 How do I know if someone has HIV/AIDS?

You can’t tell just by looking if someone has HIV/AIDS. Most people who have the virus look healthy and have no symptoms. It may take several years before the symptoms of AIDS begin to show. In fact, many people who have HIV don’t know it themselves.
1.7 Traveling Overseas

HIV/AIDS is present in every country of the world. Wherever you are traveling you should always use condoms and water-based lubricant when having sex (safe sex) and not share needles and other injecting equipment. Safe sex and safe injecting will protect you and your partner from becoming infected with HIV/AIDS.
1.8 Using Interpreters

Medical care, services and information can be hard to find if you don’t speak or understand English. However, you can have an interpreter present when you are talking with health care workers or other services. The interpreter’s job is to translate everything that you and your service provider say to each other. An interpreter does not contribute to the discussion in any other way. Interpreters are obliged by law to maintain your confidentiality.

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