HIV: 10 things to know!
1. HIV in the South West
HIV has not gone away. In the UK there are over 100,000 people living with HIV; of whom, 77,610 are diagnosed and accessing care. 21,900 do not know that they have HIV. In the South West, there is less HIV than in some larger cities, but there is not no HIV. HIV is definitely present in the Westcountry.
The issues faced by people living with HIV in mixed rural and urban areas include increased isolation, stigma and often more widely, denial that HIV is an issue for any men, women and children living in this area.
All of us in the South West need to know the facts and take good care of our health.
2. What is HIV and AIDS?
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) attacks the body’s immune system making it less able to fight infections and more vulnerable to illnesses. The term ‘AIDS’ describes specific infections and illnesses that can result from the damage HIV does to the body’s immune system.
3. How is HIV passed on?
a) HIV is passed on most commonly through unprotected sex – sex without a condom.
b) HIV can be passed from a pregnant mother to her child – but this can usually be prevented if the mother takes anti-HIV drugs during pregnancy.
c) HIV can also be passed on by blood coming into contact with infected blood – for example people sharing infected injecting needles. Blood transfusions have been safe in the UK for many years, but you might like to be aware of you hav recieved a transfusion abroad
4. How do you stay safe?
Condoms can effectively prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted infections from being passed on.
If your condom broke or wasn’t used, you could access PEP, a type of treatment that can last up to 28 days that may prevent HIV. Click here for more information on this.
Clean needles and syringes are available if you inject drugs – please avoid sharing needles or other injecting equipment; its not just HIV, Hep C can be an issue too.
5. What about you and your partner?
Talk to your partner about HIV, safer sex and intimacy. Always use a condom if you do not know your sexual partner’s HIV status, or if you have sex with lots of different partners. Talking about sex can help you to negotiate the type of sex you want and to feel in control.
6. How do I know if I have HIV?
The only way to know if you have HIV or not is to take a test. You can have a free and confidential HIV test at your doctor or local GUM Department (Sexual Health Clinic). If you think you might have been at risk, or if you tested HIV negative a long time ago, go for a test!
Knowing whether or not you have HIV allows you to make important decisions about your health and that of others. The sooner you know the better so that you can get medical help, and to give treatments the best chance of working well.
7. Is there treatment for HIV?
There is very effective treatment for HIV and AIDS – but there is no cure. The body is not able to get rid of HIV, so once someone has HIV, it is in the body for life and a person will need to take treatment every day. The anti-HIV treatments, called anti-retroviral drugs, come in different combinations. When people living with HIV take the drugs regularly, they are usually able to live healthier lives for longer. Because treatments are so effective and available, unlike the early days of HIV in the 1980s and 1990s, fewer people now die from HIV or AIDS in the South West.
8. Getting HIV treatment and support
The good news is treatments are much easier to take than they used to be! They are available across the region and treatment is usually free. There is also lots of information and support available for people living with HIV.
For more information please visit the Information Services area of this website.
9. If I have HIV what are my human rights?
Anyone living with HIV is entitled to be treated equally, with respect and dignity. There are laws to protect individuals living with HIV, and many people are working hard to make sure our workplaces and public services are free from discrimination. People living with HIV are protected under the Equality Act 2010 as HIV is considered a long term-condition and disability, hence being a ‘protected characteristic’
10. Talk about HIV
We need to talk about HIV to our sexual partners, our friends, our sons and daughters, our grandsons and granddaughters, our friends and colleagues. HIV and sex talk can be healthy talk. Check your facts, HIV does change.