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HIV is an abbreviation for Human Immunodeficiency Virus, a virus that causes the body’s immune system to fail. HIV can lead to AIDS and is passed on by sexual contact, blood products and at birth, from mother to child. In some European countries the disease is mostly spread by sperm from infected men coming in contact with their partner’s mucous membrane. The risk is greater during anal sex as the mucous membrane in the anus is thin and tears easily. However, you can also be infected during normal sexual intercourse. Using a condom reduces the risk of infection during intercourse.

HIV cannot be passed on by normal bodily contact, so it is safe to shake an infected person’s hand, or give them a hug. There is now treatment available which has led to the risk of developing AIDS being much less than before, and a lot of people who have AIDS today will probably live almost as long as those without it. After successful HIV treatment the risk of infection is low.

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