What is HIV?
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks cells that help the body fight infection, making a person more vulnerable to other infections and diseases. It is spread by contact with certain bodily fluids of a person with HIV, most commonly during unprotected sex (sex without a condom or HIV medicine to prevent or treat HIV), or through sharing injection drug equipment.
The human body can’t get rid of HIV and no effective HIV cure exists. So, once you have HIV, you have it for life. However, like many other lifelong health conditions, HIV can be managed. In addition, there are effective methods to prevent getting HIV through sex or drug use, including pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP).
How do I know if I have HIV?
The only way to know for sure if you have HIV is to get tested. Testing is relatively simple. You can ask your doctor for an HIV test; the GUM clinic at the General Hospital offers free HIV tests; if you are under 25, the charity Brook Jersey offers free HIV tests; and Liberate offers self-testing kits that take 15 minutes to complete and can be done at home. Please email email@example.com and we can arrange to meet you or post a test to you. All emails are treated in the strictest confidence and the test comes wrapped in a discreet grey plastic sleeve.
What if my test result is positive?
If you have HIV, the sooner you find out and start treatment, the better it is for your health. Effective HIV treatment means you can expect to live as long as anyone else and can prevent you from passing the virus on.
The treatment can be as simple as taking one or two pills once a day. This can reduce your viral load to undetectable, which means that you can have a sex life with no risk of passing on HIV.
HIV positive parents can have HIV negative children.
Make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible to get advice on starting treatment and living well with HIV.
What if a family member has a positive test result?
Being HIV positive requires an adjustment to how your loved one thinks about themselves. Having a positive test result often raises concerns about revealing this status to others due to the social stigma associated with the condition. Don’t judge your loved one, listen to them, reassure them that their diagnosis does not change, your relationship, educate yourself about HIV and seek support if you need to talk to someone about your loved one’s diagnosis.
Should I tell people about a positive test result?
Talking to your long-term partner about your HIV status can be very emotional for both of you. Your partner may not react in the way you expect and there may be concern about the risk of contracting HIV. Iit can be useful to have some leaflets or a website that you can show them to reassure them.
If you expect negative reactions, it could be easier to get initial support from an HIV charity.
Liberate has an agreement with Terrence Higgins Trust, the UK’s leading HIV charity, for Channel Islanders to call their THT Direct support line on 0808 802 1221. The phone line is open 10am to 8pm, Monday to Friday.
If you’ve had unprotected sex recently, you should inform any partners and encourage them to take a test. Partners may need to wait for a few weeks before testing to make sure the result is accurate. One benefit of telling sexual partners about your HIV status is that they can find out more about protected sex, including accessing PrEP and PEP.
What if my test result is negative?
Your test result may be negative even if you have been exposed to HIV within the last three months because it takes time for HIV anti-bodies to build up. If you are worried about an exposure in the last three months you should repeat the test at least three months after the exposure happened.
It is important to test regularly especially if you change sexual partners or engage in behaviour that puts you at risk of exposure to HIV.
More information can be found at www.tht.org.uk
Liberate offers free counselling for anyone who is living with HIV or newly diagnosed.