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Understanding HIV & AIDS

Youth Stop AIDS Newcastle have put together this page to provide some useful information about HIV and AIDS, as well as how we can be aware of and reduce the stigma surrounding the virus. Youth Stop AIDS are a youth-led movement campaigning for a world without AIDS. Their network of young people across the UK speak out, take creative action and engage those in power to ensure that governments, global institutions and corporations are committed to ending AIDS by 2030.

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks your body’s immune system, decreasing its ability to fight off other viruses, infection and bacteria.

AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) is the collection of disease that develops as a result of infection with the HIV virus. Not all cases of HIV lead to AIDS.

Unlike some viruses, the human body cannot get rid of HIV. Whilst no cure for HIV currently exists, it can be controlled with proper medical care.

Treatment for people living with HIV is fully available in the UK, and effective treatment means people living with the virus can live a healthy life with a normal life expectancy. HIV is no longer a death sentence, but not everyone has access to effective treatment.

HIV can’t be transmitted through

  • Sweat
  • Coughing/sneezing
  • Sharing bathwater
  • Kissing
  • Toilet seats
  • Sharing food
  • Insect bites

Who can get HIV?

Anyone can get HIV, not just LGBT+ people. In fact, women in the global south and young people are disproportionately affected.

“HIV is a thing of the past”

HIV is still one of the biggest killers worldwide. It is the second biggest killer of young people. Only 52% of children living with HIV have access to treatment – without it, almost half won't live to see their 2nd birthday. ¼ of people in the UK living with HIV do not know they have the virus

HIV always leads to AIDS

ARV drugs can suppress the virus to a point where it is undetectable. This means the virus cannot progress into AIDS, and the virus cannot be transmitted. ‘Undetectable = untransmittable’. 

World AIDS Day takes place on 1 December each year. It’s an opportunity for people worldwide to join the movement to end AIDS by 2030, to show support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate those who have died from an AIDS-related illness. Founded in 1988, World AIDS Day was the first-ever global health day. As well as international World AIDS Day, National HIV Testing Week is an annual campaign to promote regular testing among the most affected population groups in England. This helps to reduce the number of people living with undiagnosed HIV and those diagnosed late.

  • Travel - some countries have travel restrictions or even forbid entry to people living with HIV. Countries with some sort of restriction include New Zealand, Australia, Singapore and many more.
  • Employment  - Many people living with HIV have been fired, refused work or forced to disclose their status.
  • Mental health – Stigma and the barriers it creates can drastically affect people’s lives.

Stigmatising terminology that can cause offence

  • HIV victim/ HIV infected person/ HIV or AIDS carrier/ positives and HIVers
  • Contracting AIDS
  • Died of AIDS
  • Referring to yourself as ‘clean’ if you don’t have HIV
  • Death sentence, fatal/life-threatening condition.

Correct/preferred terminology

  • A person living with HIV
  • Died of an AIDS-related illness/ died of AIDS-related complications or end-stage HIV.
  • A serious health issue or chronic health condition. It is a manageable health condition for those with access to treatment.

For more information, please visit

  • How did you contract HIV?
  • Are you infected/ are you clean?
  • Do you have AIDS?

These questions should be avoided. They may be hurtful or offensive to those living with HIV as it implies they are ‘dirty’ or harmful.

HIV can be a sensitive subject when it comes to sex. Trying to be sensitive while also being safe can be complicated. In England and Wales, there are laws against reckless HIV transmission. While someone does not have to disclose their status (but if so, must wear protection), it is encouraged. For more information, please visit

For more information on sex and relationships visit the Mesmac website here.

Youth Stop AIDS


Youth Stop AIDS operates across the country as societies at many universities, including Newcastle. Like us on Facebook to stay updated and get involved.


Positive Allies

Positive Allies is a free and unique charter mark available for all organisations, designed to show that the organisation is friendly toward, and inclusive of, people living with HIV and that they actively challenge HIV stigma.

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