Things we Need to Know
WHAT IS HIV?
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. HIV infects and gradually destroys the infected person’s immune system. This means your body is less able to fight off normal infections and germs so any infections or illnesses are harder to treat and can take longer to recover from.
There is no cure for HIV but it Is Treatable. HIV Anti Retro-Viral (ARV) treatments are available which help suppress HIV replication to an ‘undetectable’ level, restore immune function, and improve quality and quantity of life. A person diagnosed early with HIV with treatment can expect to live well and in good health for many years.
The term used if a person is infected with HIV is that they are HIV Positive HIV+. The term used if a person is not infected with HIV is that they are HIV Negative HIV–
HOW IS HIV PASSED ON?
The HIV virus is in the following body fluids of a person who has HIV:
Male: Semen (cum and pre-cum) and blood;
Female: Blood, including menstrual blood; vaginal sexual fluids, and breast milk. The most common ways for the virus to be transmitted by a person who has HIV are:
Having anal, vaginal, or oral sex without a condom. There is also a risk during sex if a condom is used but it breaks if it is not put on correctly or comes off during withdrawal. Sharing a needle with someone, for example when injecting drugs Sharing other drug use equipment – e.g. drug snorting equipment if there is any blood. Through donated blood, if it is not screened. In Europe and the UK, all blood products are screened for HIV. Sharing tattooing or piercing equipment if blood is present. From mother to child (called Vertical Transmission). In the UK all pregnant women are offered an HIV test at ante-natal screening. If the test shows that they are HIV positive, they are monitored closely during the pregnancy, given Anti Retroviral drugs. Breastfeeding is discouraged as the HIV virus is present in the breast milk of an HIV+ woman.
HIV IS NOT PASSED ON BY….
There is no risk of HIV being passed through normal social contact with someone who is HIV positive. This includes: touching, hugging, kissing, sharing towels or clothes, sharing cups, plates or glasses, using the same toilet, bath, shower, kitchen, etc.
PRESENCE OF HIV IN BODY FLUIDS WE MAY NORMALLY COME INTO CONTACT WITH.
WHAT IS AIDS? (Now known as Advanced HIV)
AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.
At present in the UK, an AIDS diagnosis is confirmed if a person with HIV develops one or more of specific severe opportunistic infections or cancers. This happens because the Immune system has become more damaged due to the late diagnosis of HIV or because the virus has become resistant to medication. Illnesses that occur become more and more severe leading to an AIDS diagnosis. It is possible for someone to be very ill with HIV but not have an Advanced HIV diagnosis.
What to do if you have potentially been exposed to HIV?
A generic version of antiretroviral drug Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) can be prescribed for people who have potentially been exposed to HIV. This form of HIV treatment can prevent the virus from becoming established in the body of someone who has been exposed. PEP treatment can be accessed from Sexual Health clinics and Accident & Emergency departments in Derby City across Derbyshire County. PEP is particularly important for people who have been sexually assaulted or people who have been exposed to blood through a needle injury or other accident at work - See more at http://www.tht.org.uk/sexual-health/About-HIV/Post-exposure-prophylaxis
WHAT IS AN HIV TEST?
You can find out if you have become infected with HIV by having blood tests done at your local sexual health clinic. The test works by detecting antibodies produced by your body in an attempt to fight the virus. The test works by looking for antibodies in your blood to HIV rather than the virus itself.
WHEN SHOULD I HAVE AN HIV TEST
It normally takes 12 weeks (3 months) for the antibodies to HIV to show up in the blood. So you need to wait for 12 weeks from when you were at risk of being infected for an antibody test to give you an accurate result. The 12 weeks are called the “window period”. If you are tested in the window period and have a negative result you should also be tested again after 12 weeks have passed to be sure of your result. If you are concerned about an incident in the last few days or weeks where you feel you may have been exposed to HIV, you should speak to an adviser at a Genito -Urinary Medicine (GUM) clinic about a number of other tests which could be carried out in clinic at this early stage to identify HIV.
HOW WILL I BE TESTED FOR HIV USING THE RAPID TEST?
The Rapid HIV Test that we use needs a pinprick of blood from your finger. The test result will be available within 1 minute.
WHAT DO THE RESULTS MEAN?
If you have no antibodies in your blood 12 weeks after you were at risk of being infected by HIV you are HIV negative, you do not have HIV. However, this does not mean you can’t be infected in the future.
If you do have antibodies in your blood then the result means you are HIV positive. It is a standard procedure to confirm this result with another kind of antibody test. This will be provided free at an HIV clinic that we refer you to. You can pass the virus onto other people through having sex without having a condom or sharing needles, or any other way described previously.
THINGS TO THINK ABOUT BEFORE HAVING AN HIV TEST
Having an HIV test can have a big impact on you whether you have a positive or negative result. Only you can decide if having an HIV test is right for you. You should not be pressured into having a test by other people.
Here are some reasons FOR having an HIV test and some reasons for NOT having an HIV test
Reasons FOR having a test:
You will know your HIV status. You won’t be worried about what you think your HIV status is. A negative result may give you peace of mind. A positive result will enable you to access medication, monitoring, and specialist support, which can greatly improve your long term health. If you are HIV positive the sooner you are diagnosed the more likely you are to get the maximum benefit from HIV treatment. You will be able to make decisions about your future. Women and their partners considering having a baby will be able to take advantage of treatments and other measures that reduce the likelihood of transmitting HIV to the baby. To help you plan the type of sex you want with your partner(s). By always having protected sex, you will be very unlikely to pass HIV on to anyone else.
Reasons for NOT having a test:
A positive result can mean a lot of stress and impact on your day-to-day life. People may treat you differently if they know you are HIV positive You may be restricted on traveling or working abroad A positive HIV result can make it more difficult to get a mortgage or life insurance. If you have a non-reactive result following behavior that could have led to becoming HIV positive, you may see no reason to change your behavior to lower the risk. You may not be able to deal with a positive result emotionally at this time. It may help you if you know you have someone to support you.
THINGS TO THINK ABOUT AFTER HAVING A NON REACTIVE HIV TEST RESULT
Getting a negative result doesn’t mean you are immune to HIV. You might want to think about the times you were uncomfortable with the risks you have taken and how you might deal with these in the future.
The result tells you what your HIV status was 12 weeks ago. If you have had unprotected sex or shared injecting equipment in the last 12 weeks you may want to take another test within the next three to six months.
This is a result of you and does not tell you anybody else’s status. Don’t assume that your partner has the same status.
THINGS TO THINK ABOUT AFTER HAVING A POSITIVE HIV TEST RESULT
This is a result of you and does not tell you anybody else’s status, so don’t assume that your partner has the same status.
A positive result could mean that you can face discrimination from some people if they know about your status.
If you are HIV positive you can pass HIV to other people through unprotected sex or sharing injecting equipment. You may want to make changes in your life. Remember that you may be in shock and might not be thinking very clearly. Try to carry on with your life and work until you have had time to understand and absorb the test result. Try to postpone making major decisions until you have had some time to adjust.
At the moment you might feel that you want to tell lots of people about being HIV positive. It’s important you have someone you can talk to, but at this stage try only to talk to people you really trust. You can always tell people later, but once you have told someone they will always know.
DO YOU THINK YOU HAVE PUT YOURSELF AT RISK OF HIV INFECTION?
READY TO TAKE THE TEST? Visit: http://www.yoursexualhealthmatters.org.uk/
You can either go to your local Hospital GUM or Sexual Health clinic and receive an HIV test as part of a full sexual health screen or have Rapid test at our clinic which specifically looks for HIV infection.
What is PrEP?
PrEP stands for Pre Exposure Prophylaxis. PrEP is a tablet you take regularly, which protects you from HIV. If you take PrEP once a day, you can maximize your protection against HIV by around 99%.
PrEP helps you to stay negative
It does not protect against any other
It does not protect against any other STI, only HIV. You need to take other precautions in addition to PrEP to protect yourself from all other STIs.
HIV is the only STI for which there is no cure or vaccine. PrEP is a great additional tool which means you can be sure you are protected against HIV.
If you are on PrEP and taking it correctly, you need not worry about a sexual partner's HIV status because you are protecting your own negative status by taking PrEP.
We recommend regular STI testing. You should have an HIV test every 3 months.