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HIV and Aids

The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is the virus which weakens the human body's immune system and causes Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, or AIDS. HIV is transmitted through body fluids such as blood, semen and breast milk and makes it difficult for the body to fight infection. There are various treatments which can help a person with AIDS lead a healthy, active and long life if they respond well, however, they can still transmit the infection to others.

You can become infected with HIV (HIV+) through:

  • Unprotected sexual intercourse with an infected partner 
  • Sharing syringes and needles with infected drug users, or using other skin-piercing equipment 
  • Receiving infected blood transfusions and organ or tissue transplants      

In addition, HIV can be transmitted from an infected mother to a child in the womb, or through birth or breastfeeding.

You can't become infected with HIV through:

  • Casual physical contact such as touching, kissing or hugging
  • Coughing or sneezing
  • Sharing everyday objects like cups, cutlery, towels, and even toilet and washing facilities 
  • Swimming in a public pool
  • Mosquitoes or other insect bites 
  • Donating blood  

Facts everyone should know about living with HIV in the UK in the 21st century...

  • 18% of babies born to a HIV-positive mother are HIV-positive themselves
  • People living with HIV live a normal life span if diagnosed and treated in time
  • There is no job which someone can’t do specifically because they have HIV
  • Treatment can mean that people living with HIV are no longer infectious
  • Men and women living with HIV can become parents of an HIV-free baby
  • BUT people living with HIV still face stigma and discrimination

To find out more about the facts that everyone should know and how you can help #FactUp the nation, visit the HIVaware website.

Symptoms

The HIV virus allows opportunistic diseases such as cancers, meningitis, pneumonia and tuberculosis to take advantage of the body's weakened immune system. However, early symptoms of HIV infection include:

  • Chronic fatigue 
  • Diarrhoea 
  • Fever 
  • Mental changes such as memory loss 
  • Weight loss 
  • Persistent cough 
  • Severe recurrent skin rashes
  • Herpes and mouth infections
  • Swelling of the lymph nodes

Protecting yourself from HIV

Remember, even though the HIV virus can only enter the body through naturally moist places and cannot penetrate unbroken skin, everyone is at risk. Prevention involves making sure that there is a barrier to the virus, such as a condom, and that any skin-piercing or drug equipment you use is not contaminated and is disposed of safely.

HIV testing

If you or someone close to you is at risk of HIV infection, it is important to test for the virus as soon as possible, as the earlier someone is diagnosed, the more successful their treatment is likely to be. All Genito Urinary Medicine (GUM) clinics offer testing, together with confidential advice, counselling and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases including HIV.

Testing for HIV is not as straightforward as testing for other conditions as several tests may be necessary, and it is essential to avoid any further risks which may result in onward contamination.

Discovering that you or someone close to you is HIV+ is very distressing, which is why counselling and support from either the HIV voluntary sector or from GUM Clinics can often be very useful - and you can reach these services at the following numbers:

  • Bridgewater Integrated Sexual Health Service (includes HIV Treatment and Support) on 01925 644202
  • Halton hospital GUM clinic- 01928 753217 
  • Royal Liverpool hospital main clinic- 0151 7062620 
  • Manchester royal infirmary- 0161 276 5200 (male), 0161 276 5212 (female)

Community care

People who are HIV+ can often stay healthy for years, however it is normal for the body to eventually become vulnerable to a range of serious conditions and illnesses. If you or someone you know are finding that any HIV-related conditions are making daily life difficult, then adult social services may be able to help.

To take advantage of our services, you do not need to tell us that you are HIV+ although we will probably be able to offer more specific and more flexible help if you do make us aware of your circumstances.

Our staff have been trained in HIV awareness, and we work closely with other agencies including health, housing and the voluntary sector, to ensure good quality care in the community for anyone who uses our services.

To find out if adult social services can help you or someone you know with HIV, ask your GUM clinic, doctor or contact in a voluntary HIV organisation to refer you or contact us directly.

Organisations and support

Some people with HIV and AIDS have not received the standard of treatment they deserved, or have even been discriminated against. Remember, there is no need to treat friends, relatives or anyone else with HIV or AIDS differently because there really is no risk to you.

Friendship and support are the most important factors for anyone with HIV, and the following local and national HIV voluntary organisations offer confidential advice and support, together with practical help for people who are affected either directly or indirectly with HIV.

Terence Higgins Trust (THT)

The Terence Higgins Trust (THT) deliver an innovative HIV Prevention and Support service in Warrington.

The Warrington HIV/STI Prevention & support service aims to achieve:

  • Reduction in the level of undiagnosed and late diagnosed HIV
  • Increase in HIV testing amongst high risk groups (men who have sex with men (MSM) and Black African and BME communities)
  • Reduction in HIV related stigma and discrimination incidences.
  • Support for people living with HIV

More information can be found on the hivpreventionengland website.

This HIV Support service will improve and enable the service user to better manage their health and social care needs, at the same time improving positive self-image, promote healthier lifestyles, improve social and economic outcomes through advice and advocacy. THT will also support friends and family of those living with HIV and encourage peer support.

The service will be based in the new Bath Street Health and Wellbeing Centre working alongside the Integrated Sexual Health Team.  There is also a community outreach provision to ensure easy access and availability for the wider community.

For any help or further information please call: 01744 646488 or 07826844702 (mobile).

National and regional helplines and organisations:

  • Body Positive Cheshire and Wales  - 01270 653150 or 07958 942781
  • Body Positive North West - 0161 882 2202
  • Sahir House - 0151 708 9080
  • Sexual health line - 0800 567123
  • National drugs helpline - 0800 776600
  • Mersey AIDSline - 0151 709 9000

Drug services in Warrington and Halton

  • Warrington community drug team (Pathways) - 01925 415176
  • Halton community drug team  - 0845 6011500 or 0151 4221400