What is HIV?
• Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a viral infection which damages your immune system (the part of your body that fights infection). The damage to your immune system usually happens gradually
• Treatment for HIV is very effective and means that for most people living with HIV, they can feel well, work, have relationships and have children
How do I know I’ve got it?
You may have no symptoms, getting a regular HIV test is therefore important.
For doctors and nurses, HIV could be missed because you may have no symptoms or signs, in addition HIV can look like other conditions.
How do you get it?
• You can get HIV from unprotected oral, vaginal or anal sex with someone who has HIV
• From sharing needles or other injecting equipment with someone who has HIV
• Through contaminated blood products
• It can also be passed on from mother to baby
Where can I get tested?
• Your GP
Testing for HIV is carried out via a blood test. It can sometimes take 3 months (the window period) for the blood test to show positive. During the window period a person can be infected with HIV and infectious but have a negative HIV test.
You may be advised to come back for a repeat test when that ‘window period’ is up.
What is the treatment?
While there is no cure for HIV, treatment is very effective and means that most people living with HIV can feel well, work, have relationships and have children.
It is recommended that everyone with HIV infection receives treatment with medication that is usually taken once or twice a day.
- U=U stands for undetectable = untransmissable. This is because having an undetectable viral load when a person is taking HIV treatment also stops HIV transmission.
How do I avoid getting HIV?
The best way to prevent all sexually transmitted infections is to practice safer sex. This means using a condom for vaginal, oral and anal sex.
If you inject drugs, don’t share needles or equipment.
HIV Pre Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)
• Pre Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) is when anti-retroviral drugs (drugs used to treat HIV infection) are taken by people who are HIV negative to lower their risk of acquiring HIV infection
• Recent research suggests that PrEP is as effective as condoms at preventing HIV
• PrEP does not protect against any STIs other than HIV and it only protects the person taking PrEP
• If you would like to find out more about PrEP, please contact the Sexual Health Services on 01324 673554
HIV post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP)
- Post Exposure Prophylaxis for HIV (PEP) is when anti-retroviral drugs (drugs used to treat HIV) are given to try to prevent HIV infection in someone exposed to the HIV virus.
- You may have been exposed to HIV through sexual contact or from blood to blood contact eg: from a needle stick injury
- The drugs need to be given as soon as possible. They are most effective if given within 24 hours of exposure and unlikely to have any effect more than 72 hours after
- If you think you may need post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), it is urgent that you contact us straight away either at a clinic or via the sexual health helpline.
- If it is outwith clinic hours you should go immediately to the Emergency Department. For further information www.tht.org.uk/sexual-health/About-HIV/post-exposure-prophylaxis
This booklet, A long life with HIV provides information about living well with HIV.
Following Your HIV Diagnosis
The Central Sexual Health Service in Forth Valley offers a comprehensive service for people living with HIV. We have a team of dedicated staff who provide supportive advice, testing and treatment for all aspects of HIV.
We work closely with the Terrence Higgins Trust, Scotland (THTS) and Waverley Care, who provide health promotion, peer support, welfare, advice, counselling and support for family/friends.
'The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is warning people to not use or buy Hightop HIV/AIDS Home Test Kit after seizing 114 potentially unreliable products from 2 UK based suppliers.
If you believe you have used a Hightop HIV/AIDS Home Test Kit you should seek a further HIV test at your local sexual health clinic or through your GP, because the self-test kits may be unreliable and provide false results.'
HIV Self Test Kits
If you can’t make it to your GP or clinic, but want to get tested for HIV, there’s a new approach you can consider – instant result HIV self-test kits. They’re not available via the NHS, but you can buy them online
Instant result self-test kits for HIV They give a result straight away, you can use them wherever you like, and there’s no need to involve a doctor or nurse unless you want to.
You can buy self-test kits online, but be careful: only buy kits that you can be sure meet European standards and carry the ‘CE’ mark. There’s no way to be sure other tests are safe or reliable. So far, the only test kit that has this CE quality mark is the BioSure HIV Self Test.
For further information about HIV Self Test, including what to do after your result.
For more information, testing or support:
Useful local contact details and information sources:
Central Sexual Health Appointments:
01324 673554 (0815 – 1300)
Central Sexual Health Helpline:
01324 673563 (1400 – 1600)
Central Sexual Health Senior Nursing Staff:
01324 673564 (Alison /Grace)
Central Sexual Health Email:
Central Sexual Health Website:
For advice and support:
0131 558 1425
SX's National website focused on helping gay, bisexual and all men who have sex with with men across Scotland access the information they need to improve their health & wellbeing.
Terrence Higgins Trust, Scotland:
0141 332 3838
Terrence Higgins Trust, Scotland National Helpline:
0808 802 1221
Terrence Higgins Trust, Scotland Email:
Useful national contacts:
Talk to others online and monitor your HIV infection:
HIV-AIDS Carers and Family Service Providers:
0141 445 8797
For treatment advise:
General HIV Information:
Condoms delivered by post:
Some useful websites for more information:
www.aidsmap.com - Accurate HIV information
www.i-base.info - HIV treatment information
www.hivscotland.com HIV Scotland
www.tht.org.uk - Terrence Higgins Trust
www.HIValwayshear.org is an HIV awareness resources for schools.
The school and youth group resources are linked to Curriculum for Excellence and produced in association with Education Scotland.