HIV -The Facts BLT 043

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1 Human Im munodeficiency Virus HIV -The Facts NHS Dumfries & Galloway would like to acknowledge NHS Greater Glasgow for the use of information contained in this leaflet. This leaflet is also available on request in other formats by phoning Produced by Public Health, NHS Dumfries & Galloway Mar 2004 Updated Feb BLT 043

2 Condoms C-Card Service provides a variety of free condoms to under 20 s. For your local clinic contact Needle Exchange Drug and Alcohol Problem Services Cameron House, NHS Dumfries & Galloway. 1 Nithbank, Dumfries. DG1 2RZ Tel. Dumfries / Stranraer Drug Outreach Worker Tel. John Turning Point Tel. Stranraer Kirkcudbright Annan Murray s Chemist Dumfries Needle Exchange, 35 Galloway Street. Tel / Moss Chemist 97 King Street, Castle Douglas. Tel The Wigtown Pharmacy 20 North Main Street, Wigtown. Tel Whithorn Pharmacy 67 St. John Street, Whithorn. Tel Newton Stewart Health Centre 2-4pm Mon, Wed, Thurs. Know the score Service providing free & confidential advice/info about drugs & drug misuse Information line:

3 Tests & Advice What is HIV? Drug and Alcohol Problem Services Cameron House, NHS Dumfries & Galloway, 1 Nithbank, Dumfries. DG1 2RZ Tel. Dumfries / Stranraer Turning Point Tel. Stranraer Kirkcudbright Annan Department of Family Planning and Sexual Health Nithbank, Dumfries. DG1 2SD. Direct Dial (9am-4pm) 24 hours answer machine available. Enquiries and appointments Tel Telephone Helpline Mon Fri between 1pm - 2pm Mobile Tel Offering a free confidential service including information, counselling, and advice on sexual health (including HIV) and contraception, provision of condoms to men and women of all ages. Other useful contacts: - NHS Dumfries & Galloway Occupational Health and Safety Service Nithbank, Dumfries. DG1 2SD. Tel NHS Dumfries & Galloway Health Protection Team Tel Liz Scotney Bloodborne VirusNurse Tel or National Aids and Sexual Health Helpline Tel HIV(Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is the virus that can cause AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). HIV attacks the body s defence system (immune system), which makes you less able to fight infections. You can have HIV and feel completely well for many years. Someone who has HIV is said to be HIV positive. When the body s immune system breaks down, someone with HIV may develop particular illnesses and cancers. A combination of these is known as AIDS. It is not possible to catch AIDS. AIDS can only develop if someone is already infected with HIV.

4 How is HIV passed on? HIV is found in blood, semen, vaginal fluids and breastmilk. If any of these fluids enters the body there is a risk that HIV could be passed on. There are four specific ways that this could happen: - 1. By having sex (where the penis enters the vagina or anus) without a condom. This is the most common way that HIV is passed on. Although less common, HIV can be passed on by having oral sex with someone (licking/sucking the genitals). 2. Through sharing drug injecting equipment. Equipment used to take drugs such as syringes, needles, filters, spoons, water, mirrors and straws can still have small amounts of blood on or in them even after cleaning. 3. From a mother to her baby. HIV can be passed on during pregnancy, at birth or when breastfeeding. However, there are steps, which can be taken to reduce the chance of HIV being passed on to the baby. 4. Accidental stabbing with infected needles (needle stick injury). If you are injured with a used needle, it is important not to suck or scrub the wound. Squeeze it gently to encourage bleeding, wash gently with soap and water and seek medical attention as soon as possible. How long does it take to get the results back? Depending on where you have your test done, the results can take between 24 hours to 2 weeks. If you test positive you will be referred to a specialist for further advice, support and treatment. Will a test affect insurance? Having a test will not affect current or future life insurance or mortgage policies if it is negative. Gp s are not required to disclose information about negative HIV tests and insurance companies should not ask them for this information. A positive result might affect future applications, and may need to be declared on existing policies. What about my partner? An HIV test only tells whether you are HIV positive or negative. It does not tell you whether or not your partner is HIV positive. Partners can only find out whether or not they have HIV by having a test themselves. Are there treatments? There are drugs available which can help to reduce the amount of HIV in the body and give the immune system some protection. These drugs have improved the quality of life for many people living with HIV. However they are a treatment not a cure, and at present there is still no vaccine to prevent HIV infection.

5 HIV Testing If you have HIV, your body reacts by producing antibodies. A sample of blood is taken and is tested for these antibodies. This blood test is the only way to know if you have HIV or not. When should I have a test? It can take up to 12 weeks for the body to produce antibodies to HIV. This time before the infection shows up is sometimes called the window period. This means that if you have been at risk in the 12 weeks prior to the test, the result might be negative despite the fact you may have caught the virus and are able to pass it on to others. If you are worried that you have been at risk, or want more information about whether a particular activity is risky, then you can talk it through with someone. There are phone numbers included within this booklet. Where can I get a test? Tests are available from family planning and sexual services as well as drug and alcohol problem services, (Cameron House NHS Dumfries & Galloway and Turning point). You will be given a chance to speak to a trained professional about any concern you may have before and after testing even if the result is negative. It is possible to have a test without giving your real name. You can ask your GP for a HIV test. GP s are required to record the test and result in your medical notes. Bloodborne virus nurse/advisor would also be able to advise about obtaining a HIV test. Tests are free and confidential wherever they are done. HIV is not passed on through ordinary social contact such as: - Hugging Kissing Shaking hands Sharing cups or cutlery Toilets It is not the kind of virus that can be passed through unbroken skin, insect bites or through the air. In the UK, all health professionals are required to follow strict procedures when caring for any patient. It is completely safe to donate blood in the UK. Also, in the UK, blood and organ donors are tested for HIV. This means it is now extremely rare to become infected with HIV through receiving healthcare in the UK.

6 How can I prevent infection? Safer Sex You can not tell by looking at someone if they HIV, so if you are having sex (oral, vaginal, anal) the only way to make sure you are not putting yourself at risk is to practise safer sex. This means: - Using condoms or femidoms (female condom inserted within the vagina) for vaginal sex. Using condoms preferably extra strong for anal sex. Using flavoured condoms or dental dams (a latex shield that covers the mouth) when giving oral sex. Condoms/femidoms can also protect you from other sexually transmitted infections. Always check the packaging for the British Standard Kitemark or European product mark before using. Using a water-based lubricant with condoms will reduce the risk of the condom drying out and bursting. Condoms and femidoms are available free from the Department of Family Planning and Sexual Health. In addition condoms are also available to those under 20 through the C-Card Service. (details at the end of this booklet) Safer Drug Use If you inject drugs, use a new needle and syringe each time and never share any injecting equipment including filters, spoons, water, mirrors and straws with anyone no matter how well you know them. New needles are available free of charge at needle exchange (details at the end of this booklet) or they can be bought. Other equipment should be kept for your own personal use and cleaned or replaced regularly. Get rid of your used needles carefully. Make use of the sharps or cin bins available at needle exchanges, (details at the end of this booklet) or place used needles in an empty drinks can before discarding.

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