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.

It is important to remember that with appropriate treatment people with HIV can have healthy sexual life without the risk of transmitting the virus to their sexual partner. At the centre, we focus on promoting this fact and the U=U (Undetectable=Untrasmittable) programme.

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.

Important terms

PrEP (Pre Exposure Prophylaxis)

PrEP is a daily dose of medication which reduces the risk of getting HIV. 

How does PrEP work?

PrEP is proven to be safe and very effective to stop HIV from establishing itself inside the body.  Taking PrEP once every day reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by more than 90%, and by more than 70% among people who inject drugs.  PrEP stops HIV from taking hold and spreading throughout your body.

PrEP does not stop you from getting other sexually transmitted infection (STIs), so PrEP is not a replacement for condoms.  Using condoms every time you have sex is the best way to prevent you from getting or passing on STIs. 

Is PrEP available in Ireland?

Yes. From 4th December 2017, a generic version of the medication (Emtricitabine/Tenofovir disoproxil Teva) is available in pharmacies in the Republic of Ireland.  You can only get it with a doctor’s prescription. Teva Pharmaceuticals Ireland (Teva) are supplying this more affordable, generic version. PrEP is not currently available from the Sexual Health Centre.  You should talk to your GP or contact the STI/GUM clinic at the Victoria hospital on 0214966844.

How much will PrEP cost?

The recommended retail price is around €100 for a month’s supply of PrEP.  Prices may vary in different pharmacies.

Learn more about PrEP here >>

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.

Where to get PEP:

Learn more about PEP here >>

Should you tell anyone about your diagnosis?

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.

Our services

The Sexual Health Centre offers regular support groups, mentoring programme and 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 on philcorcoran@sexualhealthcentre.com or 021 427 5837 to learn more about it.