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About HIV & HIV Testing

Since the first reported cases in the early 1980s, effective treatments for HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) have improved dramatically. Whilst there is no cure for HIV treatments known as antiretroviral therapies (AVR) have transformed what was once a fatal disease to a long-term (chronic) condition, enabling people to live long, fulfilling and productive lives. Watch the video below, to learn more...

HIV attacks the body’s protective immune system and weakens its ability to fight infection and disease. You can contract HIV only if you come into direct contact with certain bodily fluids, such as blood, semen (‘cum’), vaginal or anal secretions, from a person with HIV who has a detectable viral load (the amount of HIV in the blood).

HIV infection can spread to others (transmit) by having sex without wearing a condom, if the condom splits or breaks during penetrative sex, sharing infected needles or other injecting equipment. Other ways to contract or spread HIV is from an HIV positive mother to her child during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding.

Certain lifestyles can put you, your partner and anyone you have sex with more at risk of HIV but what you can do is be safe and take care: wear a condom and consider using the preventative treatments, PEP or PrEP.

"We never judge anyone on their sexual behaviour, lifestyle or make you feel ashamed – whatever you tell us is confidential – and we’ve probably heard many times before! We just want you - and your partner – to keep safe and well when doing it!"

Consultant Physician in Genitourinary Medicine and HIV, Berks NHS Trust

What is AIDS or Late-Stage HIV?

Have you heard or read about AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) but unsure what it means? The term AIDS describes people who are living with the late stages of HIV infection. This is when an HIV positive person’s immune system is significantly weakened and can no longer protect them against certain life-threatening infections and illnesses. Only people who are HIV positive can be diagnosed with AIDS.

In the UK, the medical community doesn’t use the term AIDS so much but they refer to “late-stage” or “advanced” HIV. Thanks to modern medicines though, very few people will go on to develop a serious HIV-related illness.

"It's important to remember that HIV can affect anyone. If you’re having unprotected sex then you're at risk regardless of your sexual preference, age, gender, ethnicity or lifestyle. At TVPS, our role is to make sure people are comfortable talking about their sexual health needs and make sure sexual health and HIV knowledge is accessible to everyone in a safe and non-judgemental environment."

Sarah Macadam, CEO, Thames Valley Positive Support, Slough

Useful links

You can find out about preventative treatments like PEP and PrEP here. To learn more about HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) visit the STIs page.

The following websites are further useful sources of information on HIV, PEP and PrEP.

  1. Thames Valley Positive Support is the only HIV advocacy group in Berkshire and works to both educate and support people living with HIV: http://www.tvps.org.uk/
  2. Set up by the Terrence Higgins Trust, you’ll find all the information you need about PrEP and how to access PrEP now: https://www.iwantprepnow.co.uk/about/
  3. The Women and Prep website hosts videos which explain to different risk groups how PrEP can be used to enjoy sex safely without worrying about HIV
  4. Prepster aims to educate and agitate for PrEP access in England and beyond: https://prepster.info/
  5. UK Guide to PrEP: https://i-base.info/guides/prep
  6. The Terrence Higgins Trust has information about PEP here: https://www.tht.org.uk/hiv-and-sexual-health/pep-post-exposure-prophylaxis-hiv
  7. UK NHS website includes information on HIV and AIDS: https://www.nhs.uk/ or https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/hiv-and-aids/
  8. Facing a positive HIV diagnosis and living with HIV: http://www.tvps.org.uk/facing-a-positive-hiv-diagnosis/ and HIV and AIDS - Coping with a positive HIV test - NHS (www.nhs.uk)

Know Your HIV Status

It doesn't matter what your background or sexual preferences - white, black or Asian, gay, bi or transgender - HIV doesn't discriminate. You may have had sex with multiple partners without a condom, or just the once and found that the condom broke: undiagnosed or untreated HIV will continue to attack and weaken your body’s immune system, leaving you at risk of developing serious infections and diseases.

If you're in any way concerned about your risk, get to know your HIV status by getting a free HIV test: order online here for a testing kit to be sent to your home or book an appointment with your local sexual health clinic.

HIV Testing – Free for Berkshire Residents

HIV Testing Infographic
The choice is yours: you can either order a free HIV test and have it sent to you at home (or another address) or make an appointment and pop along to your local sexual health clinic for a free test.

Don't be embarrassed about going to a sexual health clinic – there's probably very little they haven't heard about sex, relationships and HIV! The healthcare team can also answer any questions about HIV preventative treatments, including PEP (Post Exposure Prophylaxis) and PrEP (HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis).

Certain lifestyles can put you, your partner and anyone you have sex with more at risk of HIV infection but what you can do is be safe and take care: wear a condom and consider using the preventative treatments, PEP or PrEP.

"It takes courage to test for HIV and we know that once you've decided to test, you want to do it quickly. Berkshire's sexual health clinics and local advocacy group, Thames Valley Positive Support, will support you throughout your testing journey – no matter what the results."

Anju Sharma, Sexual Health Service Manager at The Garden Clinic, Slough

Need an HIV Test? Here's how to get one

Here’s Joseph’s Personal Story:

"Joseph is from Africa and has lived in the UK for over five years. Going to a sexual health clinic or even having a HIV test felt strange to him. He had family members who were positive and always felt nervous that he too may have HIV, but he was courageous and took the test – it was negative. Realising there is much work to do in educating others, Joseph now volunteers with Thames Valley Positive Support to help his community."

Abridged case study provided by Thames Valley Positive Support

Your HIV testing kit: What to expect

Useful links

You can find out about preventative treatments like PEP and PrEP here. To learn more about HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) visit the HIV and STIs page.

The following websites are further useful sources of information on HIV, PEP and PrEP.

  1. Thames Valley Positive Support is the only HIV advocacy group in Berkshire and works to both educate and support people living with HIV: http://www.tvps.org.uk/
  2. Set up by the Terrence Higgins Trust, you’ll find all the information you need about PrEP and how to access PrEP now: https://www.iwantprepnow.co.uk/about/
  3. The Women and Prep website hosts videos which explain to different risk groups how PrEP can be used to enjoy sex safely without worrying about HIV
  4. Prepster aims to educate and agitate for PrEP access in England and beyond: https://prepster.info/
  5. UK Guide to PrEP: https://i-base.info/guides/prep
  6. The Terrence Higgins Trust has information about PEP here: https://www.tht.org.uk/hiv-and-sexual-health/pep-post-exposure-prophylaxis-hiv
  7. UK NHS website includes information on HIV and AIDS: https://www.nhs.uk/ or https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/hiv-and-aids/
  8. Facing a positive HIV diagnosis and living with HIV: http://www.tvps.org.uk/facing-a-positive-hiv-diagnosis/ and HIV and AIDS - Coping with a positive HIV test - NHS (www.nhs.uk)

Preventing HIV Infection

Bret Palmer, Consultant in Sexual Health and HIV at the Florey Clinic in Reading talks about how you can take control of your sexual health through practicing safe sex, getting regularly tested and using preventative treatments.

You can watch from Bret on his YouTube channel. 

HIV can affect anyone

Sarah Macadam, CEO of Thames Valley Positive Support provides information and advice to people affected by HIV across Berkshire and talks about how the service is working to ensure everyone feels comfortable talking about their sexual health.

Be safe and practice safe sex

Bianca Askew-Gallipoli, Youth Worker in Bracknell Forest explains how professionals like herself are available all year round to provide non-judgemental confidential advice and support about your sexual health.
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