In the United Kingdom around 100,000 people are now living with HIV. Over a quarter of these are unaware they are infected!
Nationally, between 6,000 and 7,000 people are newly diagnosed with HIV each year, and Milton Keynes has seen a year on year increase in the numbers of residents diagnosed.
People with HIV usually look and feel well for a number of years and are unlikely to notice any symptoms. The virus gradually attacks and weakens their immune system. If started soon enough HIV treatment can limit this. People diagnosed with HIV early, and starting treatment are now living as long as people who don’t have HIV.
Startswithme offers further information on HIV Testing.
How can I catch HIV?
Anal or vaginal sex without a condom - 95% of people diagnosed with HIV in the last year were infected through sex. Oral sex poses a much smaller but still identifiable risk that is increased if ejaculation in the mouth takes place and there are open sores in the mouth.
Sharing needles - this can include the tools used for tattooing, body piercing as well as for injecting drugs.
Sharing other drug equipment - syringes, filters and other equipment used for drug use can also be contaminated.
From a mother to her child during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding - with treatment and if breast feeding is avoided, this risk to the baby is reduced to less than one percent.
Infected blood products - In some countries HIV may be transmitted through infected blood products. In the UK all blood is screened to ensure this does not happen.
HIV is not transmitted by: kissing or touching, sitting on toilet seats, insect bites, using swimming pools, spitting, coughing or sneezing, or biting.
How can I prevent getting HIV?
Condoms and lubrication - When used consistently and correctly, condoms used with lubrication are effective in preventing HIV infection. For further information visit NHS Choices.
Pre exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) - taking PrEP before being exposed to HIV means there’s enough drug inside you to block HIV if it gets into your body. The medication used for PrEP is a tablet which contains tenofovir and emtricitabine (drugs commonly used to treat HIV). It is sometimes called Truvada but most of the PrEP used in the UK is generic PrEP.
For more information and how to access PrEP please follow the links below:
Post exposure prophylaxis (PEP) - PEP is a prescribed medication which may prevent you contracting HIV. It is only available from Genito urinary medicine (GUM) clinics and Accident and Emergency departments (out of hours only). It must be taken as soon as possible after you’ve been in contact with HIV, ideally within a few hours but not later than 72 hours (3days) The medicines must be taken every day for four weeks. You can find out where you can access PEP, click here.
Where can I get tested?
Around 13% of the estimated 100,000 people living with HIV in the UK remain undiagnosed.
To find out where your local testing centre is, use our service finder. Alternatively, free self-sampling HIV test kits are available in many areas of the country — please follow the link and enter your details to check your eligibility.
What does the test involve?
There are two types of tests:
- Blood Test - A small amount of blood will be taken from a vein in your arm, the sample will be sent to our local lab. Your results will be available between same day and 10 days depending on where you test
- Quick Test - A small spot of blood will be taken from one of your fingers and tested. After 60 seconds you will get the result, which will be 'unreactive' or 'reactive'.
What happens next?
If your test result are negative/unreactive and you think you may have been in contact with HIV in the last 3 months, you may need to test again, as it can take up to three months after coming into contact with HIV before it is detectable in the blood – this is known as the window period. .
If your test it positive/reactive you will be referred to your nearest Genito Urinary Medicine (GUM) clinic, where you will have a confirmatory HIV blood test taken. You will be given the support and information you need. Find details of the Milton Keynes blood borne virus (BBV) clinic.
Terrence Higgins Trust can offer you testing and support locally.
Will I know how long I’ve had HIV?
The HIV antibody test cannot tell you how long you have had the virus. However, when you have had confirmation of your positive test, other tests will be taken which may give an idea.
How accurate are the tests?
No tests are 100% accurate, especially if the test has been done in the window period.
Should I tell my partner?
It is very important that your current sexual partner and/or any recent partners are tested.
You may be given a ‘contact slip’ to give or send to your partner(s), informing them that they may have been exposed to a sexually transmitted infection and suggesting that they go for a check-up. It may or may not say what the infection is and will not have your name on it; so your confidentiality is protected. This is called partner notification.
If you feel unable to tell them that you are HIV positive, the Health adviser will contact them anonymously for you. For further information go to http://www.tht.org.uk/myhiv