What is HIV/AIDS, where can you access testing and how do you get support


HIV (Human Immuno-deficiency Virus) is a virus which damages the human immune system and reduces its ability to fight everyday infections. It is estimated that there are over 100,000 people living with HIV in the UK, including about 75,000 people diagnosed with HIV and 25,000 who were infected but undiagnosed. Of those living with HIV in the UK, 44 per cent were gay men and 45 per cent had been infected through heterosexual sex. Many of those infected heterosexually are black African people.

AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is the name used to describe a number of potentially life-threatening infections and illnesses that happen when your immune system has been severely damaged by the HIV virus.

While AIDS can't be transmitted from one person to another, the HIV virus can

Since the beginning of the HIV epidemic, almost 70 million people have been infected with the HIV virus and about 35 million people have died of AIDS related illnesses. This means that there are around 35 million people living with HIV in the world today - it's time to end the stigma around HIV and AIDS.


Much HIV-related stigma and prejudice is based on misinformation about how people can and cannot be infected with the virus, and it's important to be aware that is not possible to become infected with HIV through:-

  • Touching, hugging or shaking hands
  • Kissing
  • Sharing cups, glasses, knives, forks, spoons etc.
  • Drinking from the same bottle/ can etc.
  • Eating food prepared by someone with HIV
  • Being sneezed, coughed or spat on
  • Using the same toilets or swimming pools
  • Insect /animal bites
  • Any general social contact with someone living with HIV

The main routes of transmission of HIV are:-

  • Unprotected anal penetrative intercourse (sex without a condom)
  • Unprotected vaginal penetrative intercourse
  • Sharing needles and syringes for injecting drugs (such as heroin or steroids)
  • Vertical transmission from mother to baby 
  • From mother to child during breast feeding


HIV Prevention

It is important to take steps where possible to protect yourself, your partners and others against the spread of HIV. 

The main methods of HIV prevention include:-

  • Encouraging condom use for penetrative sexual intercourse (vaginal, anal and oral)
  • Providing information and resources to intravenous drug users to enable safer injecting practice (including the provision of needle exchanges)
  • Access to treatment and support for pregnant women who are HIV positive 
  • HIV testing programmes to identify undiagnosed case of HIV infection – it is estimated that 25% of people with HIV do not know they have it and that they account for more than 50% of new infections. A person infected with HIV may look and feel perfectly well for many years and they may not know that they are infected, don’t get tested and unknowingly pass the virus to others during sex or by sharing injecting equipment.
  • The provision of appropriate treatment for all people living with HIV – the significant impact of effective HIV treatment in reducing infectiousness means that HIV treatment is itself a form of HIV prevention



At SHSU, we work closely with partners such as Sexual Health Sheffield to help students get access to testing, information and support.


As part of LGBT+ History month, Sexual Health Sheffield will be visiting Sheffield Hallam Students' Union to host a HIV Talk and STI Testing session, arranged by our LGBT+ Rep. More information about this great event is available here.