HIV (initially called HTLV III) is a virus, which is most commonly passed on through sexual intercourse. The virus attacks the white blood cells in the body, eventually compromising the host's immune system so badly that they become susceptible to opportunistic infections such as PCP Pneumonia and rare skin cancers that the body can usually fight with ease. The onset of these is called AIDS or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.
The first recorded case in Birmingham was in 1982 (HPA). The first UK case was in London in 1981. The Health service was ill equipped to deal with the early epidemic and patients were often treated to dehumanising practices such as barrier nursing. Infection in the eighties almost always resulted in death, as no specific treatments existed, although ‘long term survivors’ are alive and well today, surviving the early period of the epidemic.