Mate ārai kore HIV and AIDS

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. HIV is a virus that damages the cells in your immune system and weakens its ability to fight everyday infections and diseases. Being HIV positive means that you have become infected with the virus.

About HIV and AIDS

The HIV virus infects and damages CD4 cells, which are an important part of your immune system. If enough CD4 cells are infected and damaged, your body cannot fight off certain germs, which can lead to infection and illness.

AIDS stands for acquired immune deficiency syndrome. It is when a person's immune system has been badly damaged by the HIV virus and their body has become too weak to fight off many infections. This is the last stage of HIV infection. A person with AIDS can develop infections and illnesses that are life-threatening.

Spread of HIV

HIV infection is passed on through body fluids such as:

  • blood
  • semen
  • rectal and vaginal fluids
  • breast milk.

Saliva, sweat and urine do not carry enough of the virus to infect another person. So HIV cannot be passed on through kissing or touching an infected person.

If an infected person has been on medication and has had an undetectable viral load for at least 6 months, they cannot pass on HIV either. An undetectable viral load means that medication has brought the level of virus down to the point where blood tests cannot detect it.

Preventing HIV

Using a condom during sex is the best way to protect yourself from getting or passing on HIV.

People who inject drugs can avoid HIV being passed on by not sharing drug injecting equipment.

If you are at risk of catching HIV

If you are at risk of catching HIV, it is possible that pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) could be right for you.

PrEP is where you take tenofovir and emtricitabine medication that can reduce your risk of developing HIV infection if you are exposed to it.

Talk to your healthcare provider about this if you think it might be useful for you.

Diagnosing HIV

You can have HIV with no symptoms, and there are no symptoms typical of HIV.

To find out if you have HIV you need to have an HIV blood test.

It is important to get tested. The earlier in the disease you are diagnosed, the earlier you can start treatment. You can have an HIV test through your:

  • healthcare provider
  • Sexual Wellbeing Aotearoa clinic
  • sexual health centre.

All pregnant people in Aotearoa New Zealand are offered HIV testing as part of their antenatal blood tests. When you are pregnant it is important to know if you are HIV positive, so you can take medicines that make it much less likely you will pass HIV to your pēpi (baby).

Treating HIV

While there is no cure for HIV, there are very effective treatments with antiretroviral medicines. These work by stopping the virus reproducing.

If you take the medicine your healthcare provider advises, you can expect to live a long and healthy live.

You can find out more about medicines for HIV on the Burnett Foundation website.

Medication — Burnett Foundation (external link)

Self care with HIV

Being diagnosed with HIV can be very scary. But it is important to remember that if you take the available medicine, you are likely to live a long and healthy life.

It is important to get the right support and to find out as much as you can about the disease so you can make good decisions about your life and treatment.

Burnett Foundation Aotearoa

Detailed information about HIV, including treatments and support.

Body Positive

Founded by and run for people with HIV and AIDS to provide peer support.

Just the Facts

Information aimed specifically at youth about HIV and AIDS.

Positive Women

Support organisation for women and families living with HIV and AIDS.

Toitu te Ao

Provide support and advocacy for Māori, Polynesian and indigenous people living with HIV.

Clinical review

This content was written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. It has been adapted for Health Information and Services.

Clinical advisers — HealthInfo (external link)

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