Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, an advanced form of HIV. AIDS can develop when HIV weakens a person’s immune system so their body is no longer able to protect itself against infections and diseases that a normal immune system would fight off. Not everyone that has HIV develops AIDS, largely thanks to advances in medications.

Anal sex

A type of sexual intercourse in which a person’s penis is inserted into another person’s anus. Anal sex is normal and healthy when practiced safely. Key aspects of safe anal sex are that it is practiced very slowly, with the use of a lot of water based lubricant, and that condoms are always used (and used correctly). If you're interested in learning how anal sex works, check out our R18 “How to have anal sex” video guides.

Blow job/Oral sex

Oral sex between two men is when one guy puts his penis in another guy’s mouth. This is a common sex act for young people who are becoming sexually active and it’s very unlikely that a person could get HIV from performing oral sex. Other STIs like gonorrhoea can be transmitted orally, and a condom is the best way to make oral sex safer. It’s also a great way to get used to wearing condoms.


A bottom is the receptive person during anal sex. A person may describe themself as a bottom in relation to a particular instance, eg. “I’d like to bottom tonight”, or use this as a broader term to describe themself if they prefer to be the bottom during anal sex all or most of the time, eg. “I’m 18 and I’m a bottom”. Bottoming is the verb for being the receptive partner/bottom, eg. “I feel comfortable bottoming”.


When a person has a medical condition, like HIV for example, complications are the bad things that go wrong with a person’s health as a result of the illness. They’re like symptoms, but more serious. These can make a medical condition difficult to live with, or even life-threatening.


A bacterial STI that can be treated with antibiotics. Instances of gonorrhoea are rapidly rising amongst MSM in New Zealand and there are also strains of gonorrhoea that are resistant to treatment. Condoms reduce the risk of getting gonorrhoea and it can be tested for as part of a regular sexual health check.

Immune system

The immune system is part of a person’s body that defends against germs and microorganisms like bacteria and viruses every day. In most cases, the immune system does a great job of keeping people healthy and preventing infections, but sometimes problems with the immune system can lead to illness and infection.


Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It’s a virus that’s passed from person to person through the blood stream. Once HIV is in the blood stream, it begins to attack a person’s immune system and works to kill off healthy immune system cells. There’s currently no cure for HIV; once a person is diagnosed with the virus it stays in their system for life. There are, however, many quality medications available to help people who live with HIV.

More information about HIV and HIV in New Zealand can be found at the NZAF website.

HIV status

A person infected with HIV is described as "HIV positive", meaning that they receive a "positive" result from a blood test for HIV infection. In turn, someone who does not have HIV is “HIV negative”. HIV positive people can sometimes face stigma because of their health status, and educators are encouraged to describe an HIV positive person as someone who is living with HIV.

HIV test

This is a blood test that lets a person know if they have HIV. There are different types of HIV tests, and some can show a result within a few minutes. Something that is very important to be aware of when it comes to HIV testing is the window period (below).


“Men who have sex with men” and describes people who participate in a particular behaviour, rather than being an identity assigned to a person. MSM are commonly referred to as “gay and bi guys”, but it’s important to be aware that there are men who identify as straight who have sex with other men, or who have had sex with other men.

MSM risk of HIV

Men who have sex with men are at a very high risk of contracting HIV, and 80% of people who are living with HIV in New Zealand are MSM. There are three main factors causing this:

  • a person is 18 times more likely to get HIV during unprotected anal sex compared to unprotected vaginal sex.
  • there is already a large proportion of MSM living with HIV who could potentially pass it on, and many of these people are undiagnosed.
  • MSM have closer sexual networks because they are only a small percentage of the general population.

Non-MSM risk of HIV

Most people who are non-MSM are at a very low risk of contracting HIV in New Zealand, however there are some demographics at a higher risk and these include people in African communities (who have usually contracted HIV overseas if they have it) and injecting drug users.

Safe sex

The term used to describe sexual intercourse in which a condom is used.

Sexual health check

This is a collection of tests that check for infections from a range of STIs. A common sexual health check will involve a blood sample, a urine sample and throat and anal swabs. The tests that are done usually depend on what kind of sex a person is having. Sexual health checks are free for New Zealanders aged 20 years and younger, and places like NZAF and Family Planning offer free sexual health checks for everyone.


STI stands for “sexually transmitted infection” and describes viral and bacterial infections like HIV, syphilis and gonorrhoea that can be passed from one person to another during different kinds of sexual intercourse.


Sometimes people living with HIV can be bullied or discriminated against because of their positive HIV status. In New Zealand everybody has the right to non-discrimination, and there are services provided by the New Zealand Human Rights Commission and NZAF that work to support people living with HIV and end HIV stigma.


Symptoms are the day to day ways in which an illness affects a person’s health and wellbeing. They may be things like tiredness, headaches, vomiting, rashes, dizziness or more. The different symptoms all depend on whatever illness a person has.


This bacterial STI is on the rise amongst MSM in New Zealand. It can be tested for and is curable through the use of antibiotics. Syphilis can have severe symptoms and has the potential to be life threatening if left untreated, so early diagnosis through testing is very important.


A top is the insertive person during anal sex. A person may describe themself as a top in relation to a particular instance of having sex, eg. “I’ll be the top this time”, or use this as a broader term to describe themself if they prefer to be the top during anal sex all or most of the time, eg. “He told me he’s a top”. Topping is the verb for being the insertive partner/top, eg. “When we had sex, I topped”.


A person who describes themself as vers or verastile likes to perform both roles (top and bottom) during anal sex, eg. “I prefer to date vers guys”.


Viruses are tiny particles that can cause disease in people, animals and plants. Different viruses cause things like the common cold, influenza (flu), chicken pox, measles, HIV, and lots of other diseases.

Window period

When a person contracts HIV it can remain undetectable in their system for up to three months - this is called the window period. The window period means that if someone gets an HIV test, the test lets them know what their HIV status was three months ago. If they have had unprotected sex at any stage in the last three months before testing then they will have to get tested again after the three month mark to get a concrete result. A person is also most contagious during the window period, so that’s why it’s really important to always use condoms, rather than relying on testing alone.

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The NZAF is passionately committed to working hand in hand with partners and the community to end HIV in New Zealand. By staying safe, testing often and treating early we can stop HIV in its tracks. Read more...

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