What is HIV?

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. HIV is a retrovirus which attacks the immune system. Without the correct treatment, someone with HIV is at risk of developing serious infections which a healthy immune system would normally repel.


Continuing advances in treatment for HIV works in reducing the level of HIV in a person’s body to enable their immune system to work as effectively as possible. The HIV is not ‘killed’ and remains in the body; with the right medical treatment and care, a person living with HIV can face a long and healthy life.


HIV is present in blood, genital fluids (semen, vaginal fluids, rectal moisture) and also breast milk.


The main transmission routes are:

Unprotected vaginal and anal sex

Sharing injecting equipment (needles)

From mother to baby during pregnancy and also during breastfeeding

A person can take an HIV test to determine if they are HIV positive or not. If a person is HIV positive then the correct course of care can be started straight away.


What is AIDS?

AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. AIDS is a condition which can develop when a person’s immune system has been damaged by HIV infection.


The myths and disinformation fuelled by media hysteria in the early 1980’s led people to believe that you can ‘catch AIDS’.

There is no ‘AIDS test’ but there is a test for HIV infection.


Left undiagnosed, HIV can lead to opportunistic infections attacking the immune system which ordinarily would be resisted. This is why it is vital to get tested for HIV as with the advancement of effective HIV medications means that a person’s immune system can be kept strong. Getting tested for HIV is essential in order for a person to receive the correct treatment regime as soon as possible.


How do I know if I have HIV?

The only way to know if you are HIV positive is to be tested.


In Nottingham you can take an HIV test at:


City Hospital GU clinic: 0115 962 7745


The Health Shop: 0115 947 5414 (appointment only)


THT: 0115 882 0121 (appointment only)


Link to local services


When you go for an HIV test you should be able to talk to someone first about your concerns and to ask them questions about how the test works, how you receive your results and what to do if your result is positive for HIV.


If your result is positive then you can begin to receive the treatment, monitoring and support which will enable you to get the care which will enable you to remain as healthy as possible both physically and mentally.


I’ve just found out that I’m HIV positive.

What now? Who do I tell and should I even tell anyone?

Unfortunately ignorance and prejudice still continue to stigmatise people who are living with HIV.


If you are tested positive for HIV it doesn’t mean that you are a ‘bad’ or ‘dirty’ person; that you ‘deserved it’ or that it is some kind of ‘punishment’ for your lifestyle.


Feelings of depression, anxiety and uncertainty are common after receiving an HIV positive diagnosis. Finding support to help acknowledge those feelings and to learn how to cope with them is beneficial to many people. You must not feel alone or embarrassed about your feelings as there is a lot of support available.


Telling people your HIV positive status is a very personal thing and an enormous step. Fears of rejection and judgement are obvious emotions as there is still stigma attached to being HIV positive. When you go for your HIV test the person doing the test should discuss your options for support if your test result is positive.


Your clinic should be able to offer you choices of support, ranging from professional counsellors to peer support such as Tagadere.


Peer support, whether in a group or individual setting can be highly beneficial in helping you to deal with your status. The experience and knowledge of other people living with HIV who have been in the same situation can help you decide how you approach your own choices of managing your life.


Tagadere is unique as we are the only local, user-led, volunteer run self help support group in the region. Our weekly drop-in provides a friendly, confidential and safe environment where we welcome people who are HIV positive (regardless of sexual orientation, race or religion) to meet for social and emotional support from other people who are HIV positive. Partners, spouses, families and carers are also very welcome to join in.


Whatever you choose to do, please remember that there is help and support available and that there is no shame attached to being HIV positive. You’re not ‘bad’. You’re not ‘dirty’. You’re not to ‘blame’. It isn’t a ‘judgement’ upon you and you do not ‘deserve it’ for your choice of lifestyle.


Details of organisations and groups local to Nottingham and Nottinghamshire are available by clicking here.

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