In this section of the website we are going to look at HIV testing and services for people who are already diagnosed positive. If you would like to skip to local services for people living with HIV click here. If you would like more information on HIV in the UK and worldwide visit www.avert.org.
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. HIV testing is available at Hampshire sexual health clinics (GUM) 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 than your GP. Also you will probably get your results back quicker from the GUM 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 www.pep.chapsonline.org.uk or contact your local sexual health clinic.
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 Positively Sexy at the HIV Prevention Project (see below) or talk to the health advisor at your local sexual health clinic.
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 several really fantastic support services available for people who are HIV positive in Hampshire. Unfortunately they will mean you 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
Positively Sexy is part of the HIV Prevention Service. If you want to access confidential support around your sexual health, maintaining safer sex in relationships and disclosing your HIV status to new partners then contact us. A one to one service is available on request and this can be in a venue that is easily accessible to you. Free condoms, lube, oral shields, Femidoms and sexual health information are also available – www.positivelysexy.org.uk or Tel: 0300 123 9117
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