Living with HIV

What is it?

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that damages the cells in your immune system and weakens your ability to fight everyday infections and disease.

AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) is the name used to describe a number of potentially life-threatening infections and illnesses that happen when your immune system has been severely damaged by the HIV virus.

While AIDS can’t be transmitted from one person to another, the HIV virus can.

There’s currently no cure for HIV, but there are very effective drug treatments that enable most people with the virus to live a long and healthy life.

What to Do When Diagnosed

Being diagnosed with HIV can be scary, but it’s important to remember that you don’t have to deal with it alone. There is a variety of options for both medical and emotional support available to get you through this difficult time.

The Sexual Health Centre hosts regular support groups and meetings and offers free 1:1 consultations with an accredited counsellor, that are available for you, your partner, or your family. Contact our Senior Health Promotion Officer Phil to learn more about it.

Should You Tell Anyone?

It is completely up to you. Some people openly share their diagnosis with family and friends while others prefer to tell just one or two people they trust.

However, it is important that you tell your current, previous and future sexual partners about your status, so they can get tested and treated in necessary as well.

Your GP or counsellor can advise you on who should be contacted and the best way to approach it. They’ll also tell you how you can reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to someone else in the future.

When it comes to your employer, you have no legal obligation to disclose your status, unless you have a frontline job in the armed forces or work in a healthcare role where you perform invasive procedures. However, telling them might make it easier to make any necessary adjustments to your workload or for you to have time off.

Important Things to Know

  • Starting antiretroviral treatment as soon as possible, and sustaining it as part of your everyday routine, is the best way of ensuring that your immune system stays strong.
  • Alongside your treatment, there are lots of things you can do to keep yourself healthy and happy and improve your overall wellbeing, like regular exercising, eating healthy, getting enough rest and quality sleep.
  • There are some restrictions when it comes to living with HIV, like the inability to donate blood or organs, or travel to certain countries.

It is important to remember that if you have HIV, are on effective treatment, and your viral load is undetectable you won’t pass along HIV to a sexual partner.

The Sexual Health Centre aims to raise public awareness for the U=U (Undetectable=Untransmittable) campaign which highlights this fact.

Peer mentoring programme

If you are living with HIV and would like to share your experience and help other people living with the virus, please contact our Senior Health Promotion Officer Phil Corcoran on 086324 4842 or philcorcoran@sexualhealthcentre.com.

The programme is aimed at helping newly HIV diagnosed or people struggling with the diagnosis through learning from the shared experience of other people living with HIV. The meetings are in the one-on-one format and have a practical focus.

Give us a call and become the mentor you wish you had.

Important terms

PEP (Post Exposure Prophylaxis)

PEP is a course of antiretroviral medication which can prevent HIV infection after a potential exposure to HIV.  PEP needs to be started within 72 hours of a potential exposure to HIV.  It is taken once or twice daily for 28 days.

PEP is only to be used in emergency situations.  If you think you’ve recently been exposed to HIV during sex or through sharing needles and works to prepare drugs or if you’ve been sexually assaulted, you can access PEP from your local Accident and Emergency Department.

PrEP (Pre Exposure Prophylaxis)

PrEP is a daily dose of medication which reduces the risk of getting HIV.  Taking PrEP daily reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by over 90%.  For people who inject drugs, taking PrEP reduces the risk by over 70%.  The risk of getting HIV from sex can be reduced even further by also using condoms during sex.  PrEP is not currently available from the Sexual Health Centre.  You should talk to your GP or contact the GUM clinic at the Victoria hospital on 0214966844.

Pharmacies currently stocking PrEP in Ireland.

Click on the map below to find your nearest pharmacy that is stocking PrEP. (This map and information is supplied by Teva Pharmaceuticals Ireland).