Thinking about taking an HIV test can be a very stressful time for many. You need to be sure that a test is the right thing for you at this time. When should I test is an online assessment tool to help you.
HIV testing is available at Hampshire sexual health clinics and is offered as a standard procedure for all new clinic attendees. If you are pregnant you will also be offered a test as part of your ante-natal care. If you feel uncomfortable about using sexual health services you can also request an HIV test at your GP, but if you are going to do this please remember that the consultants and health advisors at sexual health clinics are much more used to HIV testing and may be able to answer more of your questions than your GP. Also you will probably get your results back quicker from the sexual health clinic.
An HIV test is a small blood test, which looks for HIV antibodies in your blood. The antibodies are your body’s response to the virus and not the virus itself. If you have a positive test result you will have to have more tests which look at viral load (how much virus you have got in your body) and CD4 count (how many fighting cells you have got.) It takes your body up to 12 weeks to make the antibodies that fight the HIV virus after infection so it is recommended that if you think you have been exposed to HIV you wait 3 months (12 weeks) before you have a HIV test. It would also be important to practice safer sex during this time.
If you have almost certainly been exposed to HIV you can access PEP (Post Exposure Prophylaxis). This is a combination of drugs, which can help you to fight HIV after a risky exposure. PEP must be started as soon possible after unsafe sex or a condom has failed and definitely within 72 hours (3 days). It has side effects, isn’t guaranteed to work and involves taking anti-HIV drugs for 4 weeks, but it could stop someone getting HIV. For more information about PEP and how to access it please see Post-exposure-prophylaxis or contact your local sexual health clinic -www.letstalkaboutit.nhs.uk .
Many people worry that if they have a HIV test it will affect their chances of getting travel or health insurance. This is not the case. Insurance companies can only ask about positive test results so if you have had a HIV test which came back negative insurers cannot be given this information.
If you are unsure about why you should take a HIV test or would like to talk to someone confidentially about HIV prevention or sexual health you can contact the health advisor at your local sexual health clinic – www.letstalkaboutit.nhs.uk.
Positive about being positive
Finding out that you have got a positive HIV diagnosis can be a very stressful and difficult time. You may have many unanswered questions in your head and you may not have understood some of the things that were said to you by the health advisor or doctor when they told you about your diagnosis. Some of the language used around HIV is quite medical and takes time to get used to.
There are support services available for people who are HIV positive in Hampshire. Unfortunately you may have to travel a bit but if this is a problem financially then you can get help, just contact any of the services listed below and they will be able to help you out.
Positive Action offers support services for anyone living with HIV in Hampshire and the Surrey borders. Positive Action offers a range of support services including information and advice, massage, complimentary therapies, counselling, one to one support with a range of specialists, group sessions and drop in services. Positive Action has bases in Aldershot, Portsmouth & Southampton - Tel: 01252 345019 or visit www.positiveaction.org.uk
Solent NHS Sexual Health Services understand that testing for HIV can be a stressful and challenging time for most people, which is why they offer a service which is confidential and aims to understand your concerns and needs. Visit HIV Lives or ring 0300 300 2016 to find out more.
It starts with me
Visit this website for informaiton about the National HIV testing campaign, when to get tested, including a clinic finder and a condom fit guide.
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