HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It was identified in the early 1980s and it belongs to a group of viruses called retroviruses.
Normally, the body’s immune system fights off infection; HIV prevents the body’s immune system from working properly.
HIV infects key cells in the body’s natural defenses called CD4 cells, which co-ordinate the body’s response to infection. Many CD4 cells are destroyed by being infected and some stop working as they should.
Although HIV can’t be cured, it can be treated. Modern HIV treatment means that many people with HIV are living long, healthy lives.
This means that, if you are diagnosed early enough, your life expectancy can be the same as a person who has not got HIV. This is why it is so important to get tested regularly, especially if you belong to a high risk group;
a. Men who have sex with men are advised to have an HIV and STI screen at least annually, and every three months if having unprotected sex with new or casual partners.
b. Black-African men and women are advised to have an HIV test and a regular HIV and STI screen if having unprotected sex with new or casual partners.
It is important to always use a condom correctly and consistently, and until all partners have had a sexual health screen.
Try to reduce the number of sexual partners and avoid overlapping sexual relationships.
Having unprotected sex, even with partners believed to be of the same HIV status (serosorting), is unsafe. For the HIV positive, there is a high risk of acquiring other STIs and hepatitis. For the HIV negative, there is a high risk of HIV transmission (a fifth of HIV positive MSM are unaware of their infection) as well as of acquiring STIs and hepatitis.
It is important to:
· Practice safe sexual practices and use protection such as condoms
· Get tested regularly
HIV testing is free and easy, and in some cases the results can be available the same day:
Ask your GP for an HIV test – nowadays there is no need for lengthy discussion about the test, it just involves having blood taken, or even a finger prick.
You can go to an open access sexual health clinic:
LASS (Leicestershire AIDS support services) are able to provide rapid HIV testing every day during the week from 9:30 – 16:00; they are also offering an extra session on Saturday 23rd November between 9 and 11 am. Drop in at 53 Regent Road, Leicester, LE1 6YF; or call on 0116 255 9995. Visit their website here
TRADE offer a Kwik Prick rapid HIV testing on a Monday . For more information visit their website (click here); call them on 0116 254 1747 or drop in to Trade at 15 Wellington Street, Leicester.