What is HIV?

Although they are often mixed up these two words have different meanings. 'HIV' is the name of a virus, World AIDS day ribbonwhereas 'AIDS' is a name for a collection of illnesses caused by this virus.

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) affects the immune system. You can catch the virus through unprotected sex or sometimes through sharing needles for drug use.

Routine blood tests for syphilis and HIV are recommended to all new patients and those who may have been at risk.

If you would like further information about HIV testing please ask to see a doctor, nurse or health adviser. HIV results are usually available within 7 days after testing. In some clinics we offer same day testing, so please contact your local iCaSH clinics direct for further details.

There’s currently no cure for HIV, but there are very effective drug treatments that enable most people with the virus to live a long and health life.

With an early diagnosis and effective treatments, most people with HIV will not develop any AIDS-related illnesses and will live a near normal lifespan.

Standards of Care for People Living with HIV 2018 

The BHIVA Standards of Care for People Living with HIV (2018 standards) were published in 2018. This is a valuable document - but it is long and can be hard to understand in some places. So a group of people living with HIV have produced "Your Guide to…" the 2018 Standards. This aims to tell you about what you should reasonably expect to receive in terms of HIV care. There is some useful general information and eight Standards that cover all aspects of HIV care in the UK throughout your HIV journey…such as testing and diagnosis; starting HIV treatment; sexual health; mental health and emotional wellbeing; and more.  

You can find this guide online at: https://standards.bhiva.org [opens in new window] where there are also easy links to the full 2018 standards should you want more information. 

HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)

PrEP (HIV Pre-exposure Prophylaxis) is a combination of medicines that protects you from HIV. Taking PrEP before being exposed to HIV means there’s enough drug inside you to block HIV if it gets into your body.

HIV Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP)

HIV PEP is a course of medication taken for 28 days to try and prevent you getting HIV after a recent risk of exposure to the virus. It is important to start PEP as soon as you can after a possible exposure because the sooner it is started, the better it works. This should ideally be within 24 hours although PEP can be given up to 72 hours after a risk has happened.

Where can I get PEP?

You can get PEP from iCaSH clinics or emergency departments (also known as 'ED' or ‘A&E’). It is important that you tell the clinic staff that you think you may need PEP. They will make sure that you are seen as soon as possible. After a sexual exposure, if the sexual health clinic is closed, you should go to your nearest emergency department.

It is important to know that PEP is not always needed. Health professionals use the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) guidelines to decide who needs to take PEP.

What happens after I finish PEP?

The clinic will advise you to have an HIV test several weeks after the risk of exposure to make sure that the PEP has been effective. You may also be advised to test for syphilis and hepatitis C infection. If there is likely to be on-going risk of getting HIV, you may be offered PrEP (see section above).

Click on the links below for more information.