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World AIDs Day

Written By: Daniella Marley, VP Wellbeing And Diversity

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Today marks world AIDs day; a day to commemorate those who have lost their lives to AIDs or to support those living with HIV.

As VP Wellbeing and Diversity, I’ll be covering some key facts and sharing some wellbeing resources from local charities...



What is HIV?

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is an infection that attacks the body’s immune system, specifically the white blood cells called CD4 cells.

Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is a term that applies to the most advanced stages of HIV infection.

AIDs was a defining feature of the earlier years of the HIV epidemic, before antiretroviral therapy (ART) became available. Now, as more people access ART, the majority of people living with HIV will not progress to AIDS. A person living with HIV who is taking ART and whose viral load is “undetectable” will not transmit HIV to their sexual partner/s. While there is no cure for HIV infection, ART can reduce the level of virus to such low levels in the body that the immune system will function normally, and a person living with HIV can enjoy good health and a long, happy life.

There can be a lot of misunderstanding and stigma around HIV and AIDS. HIV cannot be transmitted through sweat, urine, or saliva. HIV can be transmitted by:

- Unprotected vaginal or anal sex, and, in very rare cases, through oral sex with a person living with HIV

- Blood transfusion of contaminated blood

- The sharing of needles, syringes other injecting equipment, surgical equipment, or other sharp instruments; and

- From a mother living with HIV to her infant during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding



What is PEP and PrEP?

PEP and PrEP are forms of preventative HIV medication for people to take to stop them acquiring HIV.

PrEP stands for Pre Exposure Prophylaxis and is a drug you would take pre-exposure to HIV to prevent you from contracting the virus.

PEP stands for Post Exposure Prophylaxis and is a drug you would take if you feel you had had been potentially exposed to the virus from either unprotected sex or another form of contact such as an accidental needle prick. If taken within 72 hours PEP could prevent you from contacting the HIV virus.

You can find out more and access PEP and PrEP here. 



Getting tested and accessing free condoms as a University of Plymouth student: 

HIV may not cause any symptoms for many years, although the virus continues to damage your immune system. This means many people with HIV do not know they’re infected. Everybody has a HIV status- whether positive or negative- you should know yours.

You can order a HIV test here.

As a University of Plymouth Student you can collect free condoms from the SU Building as part of the C@SHIP scheme. To find out more about this scheme, please click here.



Resources you may find helpful: 

  • The Eddystone Trust is an independent sexual health charity based in the South West, UK. They challenge the stigma, discrimination and misinformation associated with HIV and sexual health. To do this they offer a range of services that includes non judgemental advice, free testing and condoms, support for people living with HIV and training for anyone who wants to know more about sexual health. Find out more about The Eddystone Trust here.
  • Sexual Health in Plymouth is a partnership between University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust, Plymouth City Council, The Zone and the Eddystone Trust. You can access online STI Test Kits, free condoms, and advice on contraception, pregnancy, gender, sexuality, and consent. Find out more here.
  • The Terrence Higgins Trust is the UK's leading HIV and sexual health charity. They support people living with HIV and amplify their voices, and help the people using their services to achieve good sexual health. Find out more here.
  • The National Aids Trust is a charity offering support with discrimination and sharing the latest HIV and AIDs news. Find out more here.
  • The Zone is a charity which provides free confidential information & support to young people, always. They have trained Sexual Health workers who you can speak to in confidence, as well as get free condoms, STI screening and pregnancy testing. They can also help you to access emergency contraception and other specialist sexual health services.They also run a free sexual health clinic where a specialist sexual health nurse from SHiP offers sexual health advice as well as as all forms of contraception, including; pills, injections and implants, treatments for STIs, and emergency contraception. Find out more here.
  • Chiva offer one-to-one support to children, young adults (18-25) and their families, both within clinics and in the community. Chiva’s mission is to ensure that children, young people and young adults growing up with HIV become healthier, happier and more in control of their own futures. Chiva works to ensure young people living with HIV have the treatment and care, knowledge, understanding, skills and wider support needed to live well and achieve their greatest potential. Find out more here.