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How common is HIV?

HIV is a global pandemic, which means the condition has been spread across the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 33 million people around the world are currently infected with HIV. It is also estimated that 25 million people have died of HIV since the pandemic began in 1981.

The virus is particularly widespread in sub-Saharan Africa - the African countries that lay south of the Sahara Desert, such as South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

In the UK, there are 73,000 people living with HIV and experts believe that 30% of people with HIV do not know they have the condition.

The number of people who are diagnosed with HIV has been rising since the beginning of the 21st century. It is thought that this is due to people wrongly thinking that HIV is no longer a threat to the public health.

How is HIV spread?

The HIV virus can be spread through the exchange of bodily fluids, such as blood, semen and vaginal fluids. The most common way that HIV is spread is through sexual intercourse, including oral and anal sex.

The virus can also be spread through sharing needles, and from a pregnant woman to her unborn baby. However, due to advances in treatment, it is now possible to prevent the virus from being passed on by the mother to her child.

You can't catch HIV from kissing, from being sneezed on by someone with HIV, from sharing baths, towels or cutlery with an HIV-infected person, from swimming in a pool or sitting on a toilet seat that someone with HIV has used, or from animals or insects such as mosquitoes.

Who is affected by HIV?

HIV most commonly affects gay men. However, this does not mean that the condition is only a concern for the gay community. In the UK, it is estimated that one in 10 cases of HIV are acquired during heterosexual sex.

view information about HIV on www.nhs.co.uk »

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