This page answers common questions about HIV, including the difference between HIV and AIDS, the different HIV prevention methods and questions around our ambition to find a cure.

For more general information about HIV, including its symptoms, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have a helpful page.1 You can also head to our in-depth guides on HIV prevention and testing, treatment options or the power of U=U to learn more.


HIV is the virus that can cause the condition AIDS.1 The two terms should not be used interchangeably because they are not the same thing — not all people who are living with HIV will develop AIDS. This is due to improvements in life-changing treatments such as antiretroviral therapy (ART).2 ART can help people with HIV live long, healthy lives, and it can eliminate the risk of transmitting HIV.1 With consistent ART treatment, people living with HIV can achieve an undetectable viral load, meaning they cannot transmit the virus to others, a concept known as undetectable=untransmittable (U=U). However, receiving an early HIV diagnosis is key.

To learn more about the importance of HIV testing and receiving a diagnosis, read our dedicated article.
To learn more about ART and recent improvements in HIV therapies, head to our article on HIV treatments.


People living with HIV are not excluded from HIV clinical trials. This allows researchers to find new or better ways to prevent, detect, and treat HIV and AIDS.3 Every currently approved HIV treatment has been studied through a number of clinical trials.3

It's important to include people from different backgrounds in clinical trials to make sure everyone gets the same access to healthcare, especially marginalised groups. Including people living with HIV in clinical trials is important as it can lead to safer and more effective treatments. This is due to genetic, metabolic, and physiological differences that can affect how drugs work in people, leading to variations in safety and efficacy of treatments.4

People living with HIV are sometimes excluded from other clinical trials outside of HIV research studies due to potential risks and complications. For example, people living with HIV may have compromised immune systems or have other infections, such as hepatitis. There is also a risk of drug interactions. These factors may affect the results of clinical trials, particularly those involving immunomodulatory drugs (drugs that change how your immune system works). However, studying treatments in diverse populations, including people living with HIV, is important. So, in recent years there has been a shift towards greater inclusion of HIV-positive individuals in clinical trials.5,6 ViiV works to show the importance of clinical trial diversity by prioritising the communities most impacted by HIV. We do this by enhancing the recruitment, engagement, and retention of diverse populations in clinical trials to accurately reflect the groups we serve.


It is important to note that the science surrounding blood donations and transfusions is frequently changing, and the information around this science may differ even country to country. However, people living with HIV are currently not eligible to donate blood, regardless of their viral load. This is because HIV can be transmitted through blood transfusions, and donating blood could potentially put the recipient at risk of contracting the virus. For more detailed information, we recommend contacting your local blood transfusion service.


Although ART has transformed HIV from a fatal disease to a manageable chronic condition, it does not cure the virus. Patients are on long-term medications and are affected by problems such as incomplete viral suppression, social stigma, drug resistance, side effects, and high costs.9 Therefore, finding an HIV cure is crucial. Current research areas involve:9

  • The ‘shock and kill’ method uses small molecules to wake up the HIV virus that lays dormant in cells while patients are on ART. This makes the virus visible to the immune system, making it easier to eliminate.
  • The ‘block and lock’ approach uses small molecules to change the environment around the dormant virus, putting it into a ‘deep latency/sleep’. This means that when the ART treatment has stopped, the virus won’t reactivate.
  • Immunotherapies, such as neutralising antibodies, are being researched that work to possibly prevent the virus from coming back or to destroy cells with the reactivated virus.
  • Gene therapies that can either remove the integrated HIV provirus from the genome entirely or cause mutations that will deactivate the virus.

While there has been a lot of progress in treating and managing HIV, eliminating the virus from the body completely is still a difficult challenge.

To find out more about the search for an HIV cure, read our page, “HIV/AIDS cure: The goal to end the HIV epidemic”.


Recent advancements in HIV treatment hold promise for reducing age-associated effects and improving overall well-being. Individuals living with HIV can take proactive steps, such as adhering to treatment plans, adopting a healthy lifestyle and scheduling regular medical check-ups, to optimise their health and potentially reduce the impact of age-related concerns. Although HIV itself does not directly cause ageing, there’s an increased risk of developing chronic-age related diseases. Some reasons as to why this may happen are:10,11

  • Chronic inflammation: HIV weakens the immune system, which may lead to chronic inflammation. Persistent inflammation can be linked to some age-related conditions such as cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and certain cancers.
  • Immune activation: HIV can cause changes to the immune system as people age, contributing to age-related health problems like dementia, frailty, and cardiovascular disease. The immune system is continually activated in response to HIV, but as people age, its performance decreases.
  • Antiretroviral therapy (ART): ART has significantly improved the life expectancy and quality of life for people living with HIV. However, long-term use of some antiretroviral medications may be associated with side effects such as an increased risk of osteoporosis and diabetes.12 Some of these may mimic age-related issues.

Find out more about growing older with HIV here


HIV affects both males and females, but the impact can vary by region and population. Globally, the distribution of HIV cases between males and females is relatively balanced. However, in certain regions or among certain demographic groups, one gender may be more affected than the other. In Ethiopia, for example, women account for 60% of all HIV infections.13,14

HIV affects women’s health similarly to men’s but may result in certain health outcomes specific to women such as gynaecological health problems, higher likelihood of cervical cancer, an elevated risk of heart disease and infertility.15,16

Factors such as social and economic conditions, access to healthcare, and cultural practices can influence the prevalence of HIV in different populations. It’s essential to consider specific contexts when assessing the impact of HIV on males and females.15,16

Head to our page on HIV in women to learn more. To hear empowering stories from women living with HIV across the globe, read our page, HIV and women: Stories that inspire.


Typically, male to female vaginal sex involves a lower risk of contracting HIV compared to male to male anal sex. How hard it is to get HIV from a woman varies depending on the country and income level. In high-income countries, the risk of transmission from females to males is lower than from males to females. In these countries, the estimates for female-to-male rates are 0.04%, while male-to-female rates are 0.08%. However, in low-income countries, both transmission risks are comparatively higher, male-to-female and female-to-male transmission rates are 0.38% and 0.3%, respectively.17,18

In general, the majority of transmission cases occur from males to females. However, several factors can influence the likelihood of transmission:17,18

  • Viral load: The level of HIV in the blood is called a viral load.1 Higher viral loads are generally associated with an increased risk of transmission. Conversely, undetectable viral levels of HIV mean the virus cannot be transmitted. Undetectable = untransmittable (U=U).
  • Stage of infection: The risk of transmitting HIV is higher during the acute phase of infection when the virus rapidly replicates, however, there is still a risk during the chronic stage when the virus is actively replicating in the body even without noticeable symptoms.1
  • Condom use: Consistent and correct use of condoms during sexual activity is an effective way to reduce the risk of HIV transmission.
  • Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP): Taking PrEP medication helps prevent HIV infection and can significantly reduce the risk of transmission.19


HIV prophylaxis is divided into two categories: pre-exposure (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP).

  1. PrEP is the use of antiretroviral drugs in HIV-negative individuals in order to prevent future HIV infections.19
  2. PEP is the administration of antiretroviral therapy to an HIV-negative person who may be exposed to HIV. This may involve either occupational post-exposure prophylaxis (oPEP) or non-occupational post-exposure prophylaxis (nPEP). Occupational post-exposure prophylaxis is where individuals may have been exposed to HIV in the workplace, such as in a laboratory, and non-occupational exposure is associated with situations such as sexual or intravenous (IV) drug exposures.19


Drug-to-drug interactions are a complex and crucial aspect to consider for individuals managing various health conditions, especially those living with HIV who may require multiple medications. A drug interaction can happen when two or more medications are taken at the same time. This may affect the way that the drugs are absorbed, distributed, broken down or eliminated by the body. These interactions can lead to changes in the concentration of the drug in the body, potentially causing unwanted adverse reactions or reducing how effective one or more of the drugs are.20

The drug interactions of HIV treatment/prevention drugs and other medications include:20,21

  • Anticoagulants such as warfarin
  • Hormonal contraceptives
  • Antimalarial medications
  • Blood cholesterol and blood pressure medications
  • Recreational drugs, herbal and alternative treatments such as St. John’s Wort and echinacea


Discover how achieving and maintaining an undetectable viral load prevents transmission of HIV and explore how U=U dispels stigma and promotes sex positivity.

To lift the substantial burdens of daily treatment and social stigma associated with HIV, a cure is essential towards accomplishing our goal of ending the HIV epidemic. With this goal in mind, we are in pursuit of a cure for HIV.

Find out more about HIV in women including how common HIV is in women, global HIV statistics, female to male HIV transmission, and HIV and women's health.


AIDS, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome; HIV, human immunodeficiency virus; ART, antiretroviral therapy; U=U, undetectable=untransmittable; IV, intravenous; PrEP, pre-exposure prophylaxis; PEP, post-exposure prophylaxis, oPEP; occupational post-exposure prophylaxis; nPEP, non-occupational post-exposure prophylaxis;.


  1. HIV and AIDS: The Basics. Understanding HIV fact sheet. Nih.Gov. Retrieved 20 December 2023, from
  2. HIV/AIDS Glossary. Antiretroviral therapy (ART). Clinical Info HIV.Gov. Retrieved 20 December 2023, from
  3. HIV and AIDS Clinical Trials. (n.d.). Nih.Gov. Retrieved 20 December 2023, from
  4. Diversity and Inclusion in Clinical Trials. NIMHD. Published 2021. Accessed December 20, 2023.
  5. Guidelines Regarding the Inclusion of Cancer Survivors and HIV-Positive Individuals on Clinical Trials.,or%20response%20to%20the%20treatment.
  6. Venturelli S, Dalla Pria A, Stegmann K, Smith P, Bower M. The exclusion of people living with HIV (PLWH) from clinical trials in lymphoma. Br J Cancer. 2015;113(6):861-863. doi:10.1038/bjc.2015.301
  7. Blood Donor Counselling: Implementation Guidelines. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2014. Annex 5, HIV infection: information for blood donors. Available from:
  8. NHS blood and transplant. Who can give blood? Retrieved 20 December 2023, from
  9. Bonney EY, Lamptey H, Kyei GB. HIV cure: an acceptability scientific agenda. Curr Opin HIV AIDS. 2023;18(1):12-17. doi:10.1097/COH.0000000000000771
  10. Akusjärvi SS, Neogi U. Biological Aging in People Living with HIV on Successful Antiretroviral Therapy: Do They Age Faster?. Curr HIV/AIDS Rep. 2023;20(2):42-50. doi:10.1007/s11904-023-00646-0
  11. Rodés B, Cadiñanos J, Esteban-Cantos A, Rodríguez-Centeno J, Arribas JR. Ageing with HIV: Challenges and biomarkers. EBioMedicine. 2022;77:103896. doi:10.1016/j.ebiom.2022.103896
  12. Chawla A, Wang C, Patton C, et al. A Review of Long-Term Toxicity of Antiretroviral Treatment Regimens and Implications for an Aging Population. Infect Dis Ther. 2018;7(2):183-195. doi:10.1007/s40121-018-0201-6
  13. Girum T, Wasie A, Lentiro K, et al. Gender disparity in epidemiological trend of HIV/AIDS infection and treatment in Ethiopia. Arch Public Health. 2018;76:51. Published 2018 Sep 17. doi:10.1186/s13690-018-0299-8
  14. UNAIDS. Global HIV & AIDS statistics. Geneva:UNAIDS Data; 2022.
  15. . How Does HIV Impact Women’s Health? Published 2022. Accessed December 20, 2023.
  16. Kushnir VA, Lewis W. Human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome and infertility: emerging problems in the era of highly active antiretrovirals. Fertil Steril. 2011;96(3):546-553. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2011.05.094
  17. Wall KM, Stephenson R, Sullivan PS. Frequency of sexual activity with most recent male partner among young, Internet-using men who have sex with men in the United States. J Homosex. 2013;60(10):1520-1538. doi:10.1080/00918369.2013.819256
  18. Boily MC, Baggaley RF, Wang L, et al. Heterosexual risk of HIV-1 infection per sexual act: systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. Lancet Infect Dis. 2009;9(2):118-129. doi:10.1016/S1473-3099(09)70021-0
  19. Shaw GM, Hunter E. HIV transmission. Cold Spring Harb Perspect Med. 2012;2(11):a006965. Published 2012 Nov 1. doi:10.1101/cshperspect.a006965
  20. Territo H, Vaqar S, Justiz Vaillant AA. HIV Prophylaxis. [Updated 2023 May 8]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from:
  21. Stolbach A, Paziana K, Heverling H, Pham P. A Review of the Toxicity of HIV Medications II: Interactions with Drugs and Complementary and Alternative Medicine Products. J Med Toxicol. 2015;11(3):326-341. doi:10.1007/s13181-015-0465-0
  22. Kaur K, Gandhi MA, Slish J. Drug-Drug Interactions Among Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Medications. Infect Dis Ther. 2015;4(2):159-172. doi:10.1007/s40121-015-0061-2

NP-GBL-HVX-COCO-240002 February 2024

Reporting of side effects

If you get any side effects, talk to your doctor, pharmacist or nurse. This includes any possible side effects not listed in the package leaflet. You can also report side effects directly via the Yellow Card Scheme at or search for MHRA Yellowcard in the Google Play or Apple App store. By reporting side effects, you can help provide more information on the safety of this medicine.

If you are from outside the UK, you can report adverse events to GSK/ViiV by selecting your region and market, here.