Know the facts

Today, thanks to advances in treatment, people living with HIV are living a very different, longer life from those some years ago.

Like everyone else, people with HIV may need to attend a range of health services for problems that are not HIV-related.

A poll of NHSGGC staff found that a number of staff are still unsure about HIV.

This means that HIV can evoke fears, prejudices and negative attitudes among staff.

Therefore it is important all NHSGGC staff know some current basics about HIV, what it is, how it is transmitted, how HIV is treated and how to protect yourselves and your patients.

Facts about HIV
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (more commonly known as HIV) is a blood borne virus which attacks the immune system and weakens the body’s ability to fight infection and disease. There is no cure for HIV, but very effective treatment is now available. With early diagnosis and engagement in treatment a person with HIV can live a healthy life and enjoy a similar life expectancy to the rest of the population.

HIV is found in body fluids: blood, semen, vaginal and anal fluids and breast milk.

HIV is a virus and has to get into the bloodstream to cause infection. HIV is most commonly transmitted by unprotected sexual activity. However in Glasgow, the number has also risen in injecting drug users in recent years.

Treatment
There is no cure for HIV, however, there are new and very effective treatments available that control the virus. This means that people can live long and healthy lives if they are diagnosed early and adhere to their treatment.

The earlier someone starts treatment after being infected with HIV the better their outcome will be. Engaging in treatment can also stop the onward spread of HIV. This is known as Treatment as Prevention – HIV treatment reduces the individual’s viral load and, with successful treatment, they are unlikely to pass on the virus to others.

Protecting yourself and your patients
Standard Infection Control Precautions (SICPs) are all that you need to protect you and your patients from infections, including HIV. There are 10 SICPs which apply to all staff, in all care settings, at all times for all patients, whether infection is known to be present or not.

The SICPs are designed to protect everyone there is no reason to treat people living with HIV differently to anyone else.

Other simple ways to protect against HIV infection
Condom use, clean needles and drug equipment and knowing if pregnant women are living with HIV to ensure it is not transmitted during birth or via breast feeding are simple ways to protect against HIV transmission.

Are you seeing the positives? For further information visit: www.hivstigma.scot