Accept Your New Normal
Living with HIV marks a new phase of your life. But if you take your HIV medicines as prescribed, it can be as healthy, active, and fulfilling as before. Make it a priority to take care of your body and mind. Get help if you feel depressed, and stay connected to people in your life you love and who support you.
CDC: “Basic Statistics,” “A Glance at the HIV/AIDS Epidemic,” âAct Against AIDS: Conversation Starters,â âHIV/AIDS: Telling Others,â âBreastfeeding: Human Immunodeficiency Virus ,â âAIDS and Opportunistic Infections.â
University of California, San Francisco HIVInsite: “I just tested positive — now what?”
AIDS InfoNet: “Safer Sex Guidelines.”
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: “HIV Infection and AIDS: An Overview.”
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: âJust Diagnosed: Next Steps After Testing Positive for HIV,â âHow to Find HIV Treatment Services,â âHIV/AIDS: The Basics,â âHIV and Mental Health,â âState HIV/AIDS Hotlines.â
HIV.gov: âTalking About Your HIV Status: Should You Tell Other People About Your Positive Test Results?â âPreventing Sexual Transmission of HIV.â
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: âHIV/AIDS: Protect Others,â âFind Support,â âBe Aware of Possible Complications.â
Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange : âYour Guide to HIV Treatment: Monitoring Your Health.â
Causes Of Hiv Infection
HIV is found in the body fluids of an infected person. This includes semen, vaginal and anal fluids, blood and breast milk.
It’s a fragile virus and does not survive outside the body for long.
HIV cannot be transmitted through sweat, urine or saliva.
The most common way of getting HIV in the UK is through having anal or vaginal sex without a condom.
Other ways of getting HIV include:
- sharing needles, syringes or other injecting equipment
- transmission from mother to baby during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding
The chance of getting HIV through oral sex is very low and will be dependent on many things, such as whether you receive or give oral sex and the oral hygiene of the person giving the oral sex.
Dealing With Discrimination When You Have Hiv
We’ve come a long way in our understanding of HIV and AIDS, but discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS is still rampant. Advances in research have made it possible to live with the disease, as people do with other chronic illnesses. But the greatest challenge for many people is still the stigma that accompanies the illness.
You may worry about what others will think about your diagnosis. Or you may fear coming out as gay or bisexual, or as an intravenous drug user. These worries and fears can encourage behaviors that put you and others at risk. These behaviors include:
Avoiding getting tested for HIV
Not using condoms
Hiding an HIV-positive status from sex partners
Avoiding medical care that can save or prolong your life
Not taking medication as directed
Hiding health problems from your family
The burden of AIDS is much higher among African-Americans. Homophobia and fear of people with HIV/AIDS are particularly strong in the African-American community. These fears mean that many people are afraid to acknowledge their sexual orientation or HIV-positive status. For these reasons, many prefer to risk infection rather than face the stigma of HIV/AIDS.
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Talk With Your Hiv Health Care Provider
Talk with your health care provider about the benefits of HIV treatment and which HIV medication is right for you. Discuss how frequently you should get your viral load tested to make sure it remains undetectable.
If your lab results show that the virus is detectable or if you are having trouble taking every dose of your medication, you can still protect your HIV-negative partner by using other methods of preventing sexual transmission of HIV such as condoms, safer sex practices, and/or pre-exposure prophylaxis for an HIV-negative partner until your viral load is undetectable again.
Taking HIV medicine to maintain an undetectable viral load does not protect you or your partner from getting other sexually transmitted diseases , so talk to your provider about ways to prevent other STDs.
I Am Living With Hiv How Can I Prevent Covid
The advice for people living with HIV is mostly the same as everyone else.
- Stay at least one metre away from people as much as possible, and even greater distance indoors.
- Wear a face mask around others.
- Avoid places that are crowded, confined or involve close contact with others, especially indoors.
- Wash your hands frequently and properly with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
- Avoid touching your face.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces regularly.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a clean tissue when you sneeze or cough, or use your elbow. Throw the tissue away and wash your hands afterwards.
- Meet people you dont live with outdoors, as its safer to meet outside than inside.
- Keep indoor spaces well ventilated, by opening windows and doors, if you do meet people inside.
If you are at-risk of developing severe COVID-19 you should limit physical contact to as few people as possible, ideally just those in your household.
Our main COVID-19 page has lots of information about transmission, prevention and symptoms.
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How Is Hiv Diagnosed
Healthcare providers typically use an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, or ELISA test, to test for HIV. This test detects and measures HIV antibodies in the blood. A blood sample via a finger prick can provide rapid test results in less than 30 minutes. A blood sample through a syringe will most likely be sent to a lab for testing. It generally takes longer to receive results through this process.
It usually takes several weeks for the body to produce antibodies to the virus once it enters the body. The body typically generates these antibodies three to six weeks after exposure to the virus. This means that an antibody test may not detect anything during this period. This is sometimes called the window period.
Receiving a positive ELISA result doesnt mean that a person is HIV-positive. A small percentage of people may receive a false-positive result. This means the result says they have the virus when they dont have it. This can happen if the test picks up on other antibodies in the immune system.
All positive results are confirmed with a second test. Several confirmation tests are available. Typically, a positive result must be confirmed with a test called a differentiation assay. This is a more sensitive antibody test.
Effects On The Immune System
HIV primarily affects the body by targeting and damaging cells in the immune system. The immune system protects the body against viruses, bacteria, and fungi.
After attaching itself to a type of white blood cell called a CD4 T cell, the virus merges with it. These T cells are an important part of the immune system.
Once inside the CD4 T cell, the virus multiplies. It damages or destroys the cell, then moves on and targets other cells.
A persons CD4 T-cell count is an indication of the health of their immune system.
A healthy CD4 T-cell count is 5001,600 cells/mm3 of blood. If a person does not receive treatment for HIV, their CD4 T-cell count drops over time.
When it drops below 200 cells/mm3, the persons immune system is significantly impaired, making them more susceptible to opportunistic infections.
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Can I Get Hiv From Having Oral Sex Performed On Me
Yes, if your partner has HIV, blood from a cut or sore in their mouth can enter the urethra or the vagina and you may become infected. However, using a latex condom or dental dam during oral sex reduces the risk of transmission. You can make a dental dam by cutting open a condom and using it as a barrier.
What Will Being Undetectable Mean For Me
Having an undetectable viral load means that your ART is effectively controlling your HIV. This will protect your immune system and help you to stay in good health.
Being undetectable also means that you dont have to worry about passing HIV onto your sexual partners. For many people this is just as important to them, giving them relief from the anxiety of passing HIV on. Some people find that knowing theyre undetectable makes it easier to with others, as it can be reassuring for others to know that your health is protected and you cant pass it on too.
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Getting Pregnant When A Male Partner Is Hiv
If a male partner is HIV-positive, a procedure called sperm washing can be used to conceive. During this procedure a machine separates sperm cells from the seminal fluid, which can carry the virus. The washed sperm is then used to fertilise the womans egg using a special catheter inserted into the uterus.
If the male partner is on effective treatment and has a stable undetectable viral load, there is no risk of HIV transmission.
In-vitro-fertilisation may also be an option.
See An Hiv And Aids Doctor Right Away
After finding out you have HIV, fear about the future may make it hard for you to take action. But once you know you’re HIV-positive, see a doctor with experience in HIV and AIDS as soon as you can. Don’t put it off. Your doctor will run tests to see how well your immune system is working, how fast the HIV is progressing, and how healthy your body is overall. With this and other information, your doctor can work with you to come up with the best treatment plan, including when and how to begin treatment. HIV drugs can often slow or prevent the progression of HIV to AIDS. Left untreated, though, HIV can lead to serious illness and death.
Can I Get Hiv From Kissing
You cannot get HIV from kissing an infected person on the cheek. Where saliva is exchanged, it is unlikely that the virus will be transmitted. This is because one would have to swallow one gallon of the saliva from an infected person in order to contract the disease. However, the risk increases if an uninfected person has a sore or cut in the mouth.
What Do I Need To Know About Dating With Hiv
Some people feel like their love lives are over when they find out they have HIV, but its just not true. People with HIV can have fulfilling romantic and sexual relationships. People living with HIV can have relationships with partners who dont have HIV or with partners that are also living with HIV . HIV treatment helps keep you healthy and helps you avoid passing HIV to someone else. If your partner does not have HIV, they can also take a medicine called PrEP that can help protect them from getting HIV through sex.
Its important to tell your sexual partners about your HIV status. That way, you and your partners can make more informed decisions about safer sex, testing, and treatment that are right for the both of you.
Its normal to be worried about how your partners going to react. And theres no way around it: some people might get freaked out. If that happens, try to stay calm and talk about your plan to stay healthy and how they can stay HIV negative. It might help to give your partner a little time and space to process. You could also suggest they talk with your HIV doctor about ways to protect themselves from HIV.
If you tell someone you have HIV and they hurt you, shame you, or make you feel bad, its not ok. You deserve to be with someone who respects and cares about you, and there are plenty of people out there who will.
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Getting The Test Result
You’ll usually be told your results in person. The doctor, nurse or health adviser will do another HIV test to confirm the result, assess your current health and refer you to specialist HIV services.
They’ll also talk to you about how you feel and help you think about where you can get support.
The doctor, nurse or health adviser will also talk about safer sex and the importance of using a condom for vaginal, anal and oral sex to avoid passing the virus on to a sexual partner.
It’s not unusual to feel shocked and unable to take everything in.
Do not feel you have to remember everything straight away.
You should be given written information, and you can always ask questions of your medical team, a helpline or 1 of the sources of support listed on this page.
Find out as much as you can about HIV, and its treatments and their side effects.
It’ll help you understand the information you’re told about your condition, and help you ask the right questions of the team who provide your care.
Do not rely on information you have heard in the past.
Up-to-date, accurate information is available from national services such as:
Accepting that you’re HIV positive can be the first step in getting on with your life.
“Be honest with yourself,” advises Angela Reynolds from the Terrence Higgins Trust .
“You’ll have this for the rest of your life. But remember that although HIV is not curable, it is treatable.”
- THT: 0808 802 1221
- The Sexual Healthline: 0300 123 7123
Sharing Responsibility For Safer Sex
Talk to your partner before you have sex so that you can share the responsibility for having safer sex. If your partner knows about HIV, it can make it easier to talk about using condoms.
Having HIV shouldnt stop you from having great sex you have as much right to a fulfilling and healthy sex life as anyone else but dont feel that you have to have sex just because your partner wants to. You can decide when youre ready for sex its your choice and no one elses.
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Take Time To Process The News
- Receiving an HIV diagnosis can be life changing. You may feel many emotionssadness, hopelessness, or anger.
- Allied health care providers and social service providers can help you work through the early stages of your diagnosis. They are often available at your health care providers office.
- Learn more about what a positive test result means.
Stage : Acute Hiv Infection
Within 2 to 4 weeks after infection with HIV, about two-thirds of people will have a flu-like illness. This is the bodys natural response to HIV infection.
Flu-like symptoms can include:
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Mouth ulcers
These symptoms can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks. But some people do not have any symptoms at all during this early stage of HIV.
Dont assume you have HIV just because you have any of these symptomsthey can be similar to those caused by other illnesses. But if you think you may have been exposed to HIV, get an HIV test.
Heres what to do:
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Can Hiv Be Prevented Or Avoided
The best way to prevent HIV is to not have sex with a person who has HIV, or share a needle with a person who has HIV. However, there is also a medicine called PrEP that people can take before coming into contact with HIV that can prevent them from getting an HIV infection.
PrEP stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis. It is for people who are at long-term risk of getting HIV either through sexual activity or by injecting drugs. If youre taking PrEP and come into contact with HIV, the medicine makes it difficult for HIV to develop inside your body.
Other ways to prevent HIV include:
- When you have sex, practice safer sex by using a condom. The best condom is a male latex condom. A female condom is not as effective but does offer some protection.
- Do not share needles and syringes.
- Never let someone elses blood, semen, urine, vaginal fluid, or feces get into your anus, vagina, or mouth.
Formal Notification To The Spouse Or Partner
If no withdrawals have been made by either the applicant or the sponsor, officers should prepare and send the partner notification letter, along with the HIV contact information in Canada handout, to known spouses or partners residing in Canada with copies on file. The visa or immigration officer should ensure that the spouse or partners address is the most current available by either requesting verification from the CPC-M for family class applicants or verifying the paper file of the dependant refugee class applicant.
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Reducing Hiv Transmission Risk During Pregnancy
For HIV-positive women, ways to reduce the risk of transmission include:
- Taking antiretroviral medications before conception to reduce your viral load . The lower the viral load, the lower the risk of transmission to your unborn baby.
- Start antiretroviral HIV treatment as soon as you are diagnosed with HIV .
Being on treatment and having a low, or undetectable, viral load improves your immune system and health throughout pregnancy.
HIV-positive pregnancy today, with specialised care, is the same as HIV-negative pregnancy. Pregnancy does not make HIV progress any faster.
What Is Hiv And What Could It Mean For My Baby
HIV is a type of virus called a retrovirus that prevents the body’s immune system from working properly and makes it hard to fight off infections. If you have the virus, this is known as being HIV positive.
The virus can be passed from one person to another through the exchange of body fluids including blood, semen, vaginal fluids and breast milk.
You can pass the virus on to your baby through the placenta while you are pregnant, during the birth and through your breast milk. The care you will receive aims to reduce the risk of passing HIV on to your baby.
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