HIV is a gay men’s disease
HIV does not discriminate!! Anyone who has unprotected sex or shares needles is at risk of HIV transmission. It is true that gay men are particularly affected by HIV but there are as many heterosexuals living with HIV in Northern Ireland. It is thought that approximately 25% of people living with HIV do not know they have HIV. The only way to be sure of your HIV status is to get tested.
HIV is a death sentence
HIV diagnosis and treatment have come a long way since the 1980s. Although there isn’t a cure for HIV, treatment is so advanced that it is no longer considered a death sentence. In Northern Ireland people living with HIV can have a near-normal life expectancy and live healthy and active lives. Early diagnosis is particularly crucial as the longer HIV goes undiagnosed the more damage it can do to the body. Adherence to medication also plays a vital role in maintaining healthy and active lives.
You can get HIV from kissing or sharing cutlery
You can only become infected with HIV if you have sex without a condom or share a needle or injecting equipment with someone living with HIV. HIV is not spread through day-to-day contact, touching, kissing or sharing utensils. In addition, being on HIV treatment makes people with HIV far less likely to pass it on.
You can’t have a baby if you or your partner is diagnosed HIV positive
If someone living in the UK with HIV decides to have a baby, they can do so successfully without passing HIV on to their partner or to their child. In the UK following the guidance of a consultant there can be as little as a 1% chance of an HIV positive mother passing HIV on to her child if the right steps are taken. A screening programme was set up for all mothers to be in 2003 and since then there has been no mother to baby transmissions in NI.
My HIV test results won’t be kept confidential
Most HIV testing in Northern Ireland is done in a genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic. These clinics are legally bound not to reveal personal details and test results. GPs and private doctors sometimes perform HIV tests, which mean your HIV test and results, would appear on your medical records but these should still never be discussed with anyone else unless it is relevant to your treatment.
Condoms aren’t effective in preventing HIV transmission
The most common way to be infected with HIV is through unprotected sex without a condom. Condoms are extremely effective at protecting against HIV transmission. Always use a condom when having sex, particularly if you have more than one partner or if you haven’t had a recent sexual health check up. When using a lubricant as well as a condom (which is particularly recommended for anal sex) make sure it is water-based.
It takes months to get tested and find out if you have HIV
You can now get an HIV test with an accurate result from four weeks after potential infection. If you are worried about a possible exposure to HIV, it is important to seek advice from your local GUM clinic as soon as possible.