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My HIV Test Result is Positive

Firstly, do not panic.

You have taken a really important first step in finding out your HIV status.

If your test result is positive, you must have your test result confirmed by a healthcare professional. Use SXT to find your local HIV clinic by clicking here. For Scotland: Click here.

Finding out you have HIV early has two enormous benefits:

1. You'll be able to start treatment as soon as you need it. Although there isn’t a cure for HIV, treatments are now so advanced that in the UK, with correct treatment at the correct time, you can live an active and healthy life and have a normal life expectancy. Early diagnosis is absolutely critical - the longer HIV goes undiagnosed, the more damage it will do to your body. The drug treatments that are available prevent the virus from reproducing and limit the damage to your immune system.

2. HIV is most commonly passed on through unprotected sex (vaginal or anal sex without a condom). Condoms are proven to prevent HIV transmission. It is really important you use condoms, as having unprotected sex will put yourself and others at risk.

If you are confirmed to be HIV positive, this means you have the virus in your body - it doesn't mean you are ill, or that you have AIDS.

AIDS is an advanced stage of HIV infection and only happens after someone goes a long time without treatment. Not having treatment for HIV infection eventually weakens the immune system and a person cannot effectively fight even the most common illnesses.

HIV is a manageable condition, once diagnosed. HIV is just 3 letters, not a sentence.

Making confident choices...

Even when you know the facts, it’s not always easy to make sure you have safer sex and it can be more difficult to play safe if you’ve had alcohol or taken drugs. You might find it easier to talk about using condoms or having safer sex before the situation arises, as it can be harder to discuss once sex has started.

It does matter if someone you have sex with doesn’t mention condoms or HIV. A partner who does not know their status may have HIV without knowing it, or if they do know might find it difficult to tell you. Unless you’re absolutely sure of a partner’s HIV status you are safest to use protection so feel confident in talking about it and making the choices that are right for you.And don't forget, if you take risks, test regularly. Take control. 

My HIV Test Result is Negative

A negative result 12 weeks post exposure is conclusive, and you would not need to retest unless you have another recent exposure.

If you have received a negative result within the window period, it is a good indication of your status, but a result is not reliable until you test again outside of the window period.

How can I stay negative?

Play Safe - Condoms are the easiest way to protect yourself and others from HIV infection and other STI's (Sexually Transmitted Infections) as they provide a barrier and stop another person’s body fluids mixing with your own.

Penetrative vaginal and anal sex, carry the highest risk. Male or female condoms offer the best barrier protection if they are used correctly and don’t split or slip off. Some condoms come ready lubricated, but you probably want to use an additional lubricant (lube), especially for anal sex. If you are using latex condoms make sure you don’t use an oil based lube (Vaseline, baby oil etc) because it damages them and can make them ineffective. You’re best to use a water based lube.

You need to use a new condom for each partner if you are having sex with more than one person and it’s also advisable to change the condom after 30 minutes during a long session.

Oral sex is also penetrative sex but has a much lower HIV risk unless you have cuts or sores in your mouth or bleeding gums. You might want to use a flavoured condom or dental dam.

Free condoms are generally available from:

Community Contraception Clinics (Family Planning Clinics). NHS Sexual Health (GUM) Clinics.

Preventative measures - PrEP is a drug that can be taken by HIV negative men or women before sex and reduces the risk of getting HIV, a similar concept to the contraceptive pill preventing pregnancy in women.

The medication is a tablet called Truvada which is an antiretroviral drug commonly used to treat HIV. It works by having enough drug in your blood to block HIV if it gets into your body so it doesn't get a chance to infect you. It doesn't protect against other STIs though.

PrEP can be taken regularly or only when needed (2 tablets within 24 hours before having sex and a dose 24 and 48 hours after) Both methods are found to be effective, but are dependent on taking it correctly, otherwise it may not work 

PrEP is still not available on the NHS in England but can be bought from some online pharmacies. There is a lot more information here.