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HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. HIV is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system. The immune system is the body’s way of fighting diseases.


What is it like for siblings if their brother or sister has HIV?

Lots of siblings have very good relationships with their brothers and sisters who have HIV. They often don’t think of them as being any different to them. However, other siblings may worry that their brother or sister will get bullied because they have HIV. They may also feel worried in case their brothers and sisters catch germs or get ill as they may take a bit longer to get better.

What causes HIV?

Someone who has the HIV virus in their body is called HIV positive. HIV is the virus that can lead to AIDS. AIDS stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. When someone has AIDS they will have a few different things that make them feel ill, not just one.

Most people who are HIV positive will take medicine that makes the HIV virus switch off. This means that although they still have the virus in their body, they are well and will not usually develop illnesses connected to AIDS. HIV infection isn’t like a cold or the flu. HIV is only passed on through direct contact with another person’s body fluids, such as blood.

Pregnant women with HIV can have lots of medical help to try to stop HIV being passed to the baby. However a small number of babies have HIV. This is because their mothers are HIV positive and passed the virus to them before they were born. Babies born with the HIV virus may not show any symptoms at first, but if they are not treated, they can become ill and their body will find it hard to get better. HIV cannot be passed on through kissing, holding hands, touching or sharing a drink or food. It cannot be passed on by spitting, coughing or sneezing, toilet seats, swimming pools or utensils such as knives and forks.

What does it mean?

People who are HIV positive usually take medicine to control it and to keep their immune system healthy. If they do this they should not develop illnesses connected to the HIV virus. You cannot tell that someone is HIV positive just by what he or she looks like. Most people do not feel any different after they are infected with HIV. Some people feel like they have flu for a few days to a few weeks after being infected, but these symptoms usually go away after several days.

What treatment is there?

HIV cannot be cured.  As long as someone finds out soon that they have it and takes their medicine regularly, they can go to school, have hobbies, do sports, work, have a family of their own and live a full life.

Even though they may look well, people who are HIV positive can feel different from other people and become scared, angry, or unhappy about HIV. They may feel afraid that other people at school or work could find out and start treating them differently. What helps someone who is HIV positive is to treat them just like anyone else.