HIV

(This information is also available in Lithuanian, Mandarin, Romanian, Portuguese, Polish and Slovak.)

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. This is a virus that can damage the body’s immune system so that it cannot fight off some infections. The virus can be passed from one person to another if blood, semen, pre-ejaculate (pre-cum), vaginal fluids or breast milk of a person who is HIV positive enters the body of someone who is HIV negative.
 
This can happen:
By having unprotected vaginal, anal, oral sex or sharing sex toys with someone who has HIV.
By using a needle syringe (‘works’) that has already been used by someone who is HIV positive.
When a woman with HIV passes the virus to her baby before or during birth or by breastfeeding.
 
If any of these situations have occurred it is important to consider getting an HIV test.  With early testing and treatment the health outcomes for people living with HIV are much better.
 
Signs and symptoms
Some people experience flu-like symptoms a few days or weeks after infection. These may include fever, rash, swollen glands, a sore throat, mouth or throat ulcers and aching joints and muscles. These symptoms are sometimes called sero-conversion illness and usually last for about one to two weeks. At least half of all newly infected people are thought to experience some of these symptoms but many people have no symptoms at all or mistake them for the flu or some other illness.
 
HIV is diagnosed by a blood test which is checked for antibodies to HIV. Antibodies are your body’s response to infection with a virus. If the antibodies are present that means you are HIV positive. This test can be done by your GP or GUM clinic.

Once HIV is diagnosed a number of tests monitor the stage of the infection and indicate whether or when treatment should be started. At the moment there is no cure for HIV but there are drugs available to prevent or treat many of the illnesses to which people with HIV are prone. There are also treatments known as antiretroviral or combination therapy from which most people with HIV will benefit.
 
HIV service
Located at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast the Regional Centre for HIV Care and Management offers integrated and comprehensive multidisciplinary care to people throughout Northern Ireland.
 
Patients are routinely tested for HIV in Causeway GUM however if the test is positive patients are given an appointment to attend the Royal Victoria Hospital. 

All patients attending the clinic are allocated a consultant who is responsible for the overall management of your care. Each consultant works with a team of doctors, who will also be involved in providing your care, and nursing staff who can provide support and advice to promote your health and wellbeing. 

Service User Forum 
This is a regional forum for people to put forward their ideas about GUM Service provision and to work alongside the Trust to make improvements.  If you cannot travel to the meetings get in touch with them via email and they will put forward your views and ideas for you. 

HIV & Pregnancy: Education for Healthcare Professionals
This free resource aims to enhance health care professionals’ knowledge and awareness of reproductive care for men and women affected by HIV.  In addition to key medical information, the resource includes ‘actors’ presenting real life stories based on qualitative research with men and women living with HIV.  This may be also be of interest to people outside of a professional context.
 
The full course (modules 1 - 6) will take approximately 3 hours to complete.
Module 1- HIV awareness
Module 2 - Living with HIV
Module 3- Choices and risks for conception
Module 4- Diagnosing HIV during pregnancy
Module 5- HIV care during Pregnancy
Module 6- Maternity care in the context of HIV

E-Resource HIV and Pregnancy
  
Useful Contacts
 Positive Life (formally The HIV Support Centre) supports and promotes positive living for people with and affected by HIV in Northern Ireland.

For further information
British Association for Sexual Health and HIV
National Aids Trust

Any concerns?
If you have any concerns please contact GUM/Sexual Health clinic. There are GUM services provided across Northern Ireland, see map of services for more information.

Page last updated:18 May 2017