HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus which weakens the immune system.
This prevents your body from fighting infections.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), approximately 19.2 million women worldwide are living with HIV.
Many of these women live in the continent of Africa.
HIV can be transmitted from one person to another in different ways such as:
Unprotected sexual intercourse (vaginal or anal sex)
Contact with infected blood e.g. receiving infected blood products from a blood transfusion
Needle sharing e.g. individuals who are dependent on injectable drugs, accidental needle-stick injuries
Mother to child e.g. during childbirth or breastfeeding
If you are infected with HIV, you may have no symptoms.
However, some people may experience the following symptoms:
Joint and muscle pain
If you think you may have HIV, you should see your doctor or attend a sexual health clinic as soon as possible.
The doctor will ask you about your sexual and general medical history and symptoms. They will also take a sample of your blood and/or saliva to test for HIV.
The doctor may also perform a physical examination to look for any signs of HIV.
You can also order a self-test kit which can be used to test yourself for HIV at home.
Although there is currently no cure for HIV, people with HIV can live a long and healthy life as long as they are diagnosed and treated early.
If you are diagnosed with HIV your doctor will prescribe antiretroviral therapy (ART).
Antiretroviral therapy involves taking medication which stops HIV from replicating in the body, preventing damage to your immune system. This can reduce the risk of you passing HIV onto others.
Your doctor will also strongly advise you to use condoms when having sex to avoid infecting your sexual partner(s).
You can receive support to contact any recent sexual partners as they may have HIV if you have had unprotected sexual intercourse.
Your sexual partner can also be prescribed pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medication to reduce their risk of acquiring HIV if they are HIV negative.
If you have been recently exposed to HIV (within 72 hours). Your doctor can prescribe a course of emergency HIV treatment. This is known as post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP).
If HIV is left untreated, a woman may be at risk of developing AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) also known as late-stage HIV.
If you have AIDs, you have a higher risk of developing serious infections and illnesses such as:
Cancer e.g. Kaposi's sarcoma, lymphoma