Information on HIV & Hepatitis C

HIV

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus.

The widespread use of antiretroviral drug treatment has changed the nature of living with HIV. Despite huge advances in life expectancy, those infected by HIV still suffer physically, mentally and socially. With compromised immunity many are more vulnerable to serious infections such as shingles and pneumonia. In addition, many will suffer debilitating side effects from the drug treatment such as low energy levels, digestive problems and nausea.

For many with HIV there are also mental health issues which can greatly affect quality of life. Ill health can lead to depression, isolation and agoraphobia. Many find it difficult to come to terms with a life long illness. Relationships become more complicated. Careers are sometimes compromised. The risk of infection, the unpredictability of the illness and the social stigma of HIV can all cause discrimination, exclusion and social isolation.

AIDS stands for acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

AIDS is a syndrome caused by the HIV virus. It is when a person’s immune system is too weak to fight off many infections, and develops when the HIV infection is very advanced. This is the last stage of HIV infection where the body can no longer defend itself and may develop various diseases, infections and if left untreated, death.

Due to advances in HIV treatment, very few people living with HIV in Scotland go on to develop AIDS.

Further general information about HIV and AIDS can be obtained from the following websites (links will open in a new tab):

www.aidsmap.com

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is an infectious disease affecting primarily the liver, caused by the Hepatitis C virus (HCV). The infection is often asymptomatic, but chronic infection can lead to scarring of the liver and ultimately to cirrhosis, which is generally apparent after many years.

HCV is spread primarily by blood-to-blood contact associated with intravenous drug use, poorly sterilized medical equipment and transfusions. An estimated 130–200 million people worldwide are infected with hepatitis C.

The virus persists in the liver in about 85% of those infected. This persistent infection can be treated with medication. Overall, 50–80% of people treated are cured. Treatments are improving all the time and the cure-rate is higher now than it was a few years ago.