What is HIV?

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. HIV is a sexually transmitted virus that weakens the body’s defence system (immune system) and leads to Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). AIDS is a term that is used to describe the latter stages of HIV when the immune system has stopped working and a person develops a life-threatening condition, such as pneumonia (infection of the lungs).

You can’t get HIV through kissing, touching, hugging, shaking hands, sharing crockery and cutlery, coughing or sneezing, contact with toilet seats, insect or animal bites or by eating food prepared by someone with HIV.

What are the symptoms?

Some people with HIV may appear to be well and healthy for many years and have no symptoms. It’s possible that you will encounter flu-like symptoms when you are first infected. This is primary HIV infection or the seroconversion illness. Symptoms include:

  • diarrhoea
  • tiredness
  • headaches
  • high temperature
  • muscle pain/ache
  • skin rash
  • sore throat

How can I get tested?

You can order a postal testing kit – see details here (needs to be a link containing the info above)

Free and confidential HIV testing is also available at any one of our centres across Walsall. HIV is diagnosed by a simple blood test. We offer same day HIV testing with results the same day/next day and rapid HIV testing (with a rapid HIV test you get the results within 15 minutes).

Is there any treatment?

There is no cure for HIV. There are however, very effective medicines which can help to control the symptoms of HIV.

Management and care for those living with HIV is provided at the Walsall Centre for Sexual Health, Manor Hospital, Pleck Road, Walsall, WS2 9ES. The centre provides routine HIV follow up to patients every three months. The two Clinical Nurse Specialists offer home visits and provide links to other support networks involving local agencies such as the Terence Higgins Trust, drug and alcohol abuse services and other regional HIV centres.

If you are living with HIV and would like to speak to a HIV Clinical Nurse Specialist or Health Adviser please call the centre on 01922 656285.

The centre’s multidisciplinary team includes:

  • 2 HIV Consultants
  • 2 HIV Clinical Nurse Specialists
  • HIV Specialist Pharmacist
  • HIV Specialist Psychologist
  • HIV Specialist Social Worker
  • 2 Health Advisors

How can I prevent it?

The main way to prevent HIV infection is to avoid activities that put you at risk, such as sharing needles and having unprotected sex. You can protect yourself from HIV by using a condom every time you have vaginal, anal or oral sex.

If you would like to know more about HIV/AIDS, visit the NHS Choices website.

PEP (Post-exposure prophylaxis)

If you’ve had unprotected sex, including vaginal or anal intercourse,  with someone with HIV you may need medicine (HIV PEP or post-exposure prophylaxis) to reduce your risk of becoming HIV positive but this must be started within 72 hours to be effective .

PEP can be obtained by booking an appointment online or calling us on 01922 270400.

If you cannot get through via phone or book a suitable appointment, please visit an Accident and Emergency Department.

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