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The Sex Doctor: THE SILENT KILLER; ISSUE OF THE WEEK: HIV INFECTION.

Byline: DR Catherine Hood

IN the week of World Aids Day here's some facts about Human Immunodeficiency Virus, the virus that causes AIDS. There are about 50,000 people with HIV in the UK. Up to a third don't know they're infected.

HOW IS IT SPREAD?

HIV is spread through body fluids. Vaginal or anal sex with someone who has the virus puts you at risk. It can also be spread through sharing needles used to inject drugs or having piercings or tattoos done with unsterile equipment. You can't contract HIV from toilet seats, insect bites or touching someone. Snogging is also safe - the amount of HIV in saliva is small and unlikely to get into your blood unless you have cuts in your mouth.

WHAT ABOUT ORAL SEX?

YOU are unlikely to catch the virus through oral sex although having cuts or ulcers in your mouth or brushing your teeth just before may increase risk. Use a flavoured condom or dental dam if you're worried.

WHAT ABOUT PREGNANCY?

AN infected woman can pass the virus to her baby, before or during the birth. Treatment can help cut down the risk.

WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU'RE INFECTED?

SOME people get a flu-like illness, but not all. Once in the body the virus hides and waits. Often years later it starts to destroy cells, leaving the body open to infections and diseases.

IS THERE A CURE?

NO, but some treatments can help an infected person live a healthy life for years.

PREVENTION

USE condoms every time you have sex, especially with new partners.

HOW DO I KNOW I'M NOT INFECTED?

THE only way is by a test by a GP or genitourinary medicine clinic. For more information see www. avert.org or you can ring the national Aids helpline on 0800 567 123.

CAPTION(S):

Close-up of the HIV virus
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Dec 5, 2004
Words:308
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