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Information on HIV

HIV

HIV Information Leaflet

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks the human immune system and weakens its ability to fight infection and disease. Early treatment of HIV keeps the immune system strong, prevents illness and prevents transmission to others.

Copies can be ordered for free through healthpromotion.ie

HIV Testing

Knowing your HIV status allows you to get the information you need to keep you and your partner (or partners) healthy.

  • having a HIV test and knowing that you do not have HIV can encourage you to take measures to stay HIV negative.
  • if you test positive for HIV you can get the essential treatment and care to live a healthy life and prevent transmission to your partner (or partners)

HIV is diagnosed with a blood test. HIV testing is available in many health care settings including STI clinics, GPs and student health clinics. HIV testing is also available through some NGO's in Ireland. A list of free public STI/HIV testing services is available here. Information on HIV testing available through NGO's is available here.

Rapid HIV testing is also available through some community outreach programmes and services. The test is carried out by taking a finger prick sample of blood and the results are available in minutes. Some rapid tests are done on oral fluid. If you are having a rapid HIV test done it is important that you understand how the test works and make sure that it is accurate for you based on the last time you may have been exposed to HIV. This is because it can take up to three months for your body to develop antibodies (the body's immune response) to HIV and that is what the rapid HIV test is looking for.

Make sure you speak to the community provider about this if you have any questions.

HIV self-testing is also available in Ireland where you can purchase a self-testing kit in a pharmacy or online. For some people, doing the test in the privacy of their home is an important part of enabling them to have a HIV test. Before you carry out a HIV self-test you should familiarise yourself with how these tests work and make sure that it is accurate for you based on the last time you may have been exposed to HIV. This is because it can take up to three months for your body to develop antibodies  (the body's immune response) to HIV and that is what the HIV self-test is looking for.

Make sure you speak to your pharmacist about this if you have any questions. The Health Protection Regulatory Authority (HPRA) have also produced information for you on HIV self-testing which is available here.

HIV Treatment

HIV can be treated effectively with antiretroviral medications. HIV treatment stops HIV reproducing in the body.  When taken properly, HIV treatment enables most people with HIV to live a long and healthy life.

When taken properly, HIV treatment reduces the chance of a person living with HIV passing HIV on to someone else. When a person living with HIV takes their treatment properly, so that they achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load, there is effectively no risk that HIV can be passed on to their sexual partners.

HSE Position on Antiretroviral Therapy

HSE Position on Antiretroviral Therapy for all people living with HIV (July 2017)

The HSE Position on Antiretroviral Therapy for all people living with HIV (July 2017), states that “all people living with HIV attending HIV services in Ireland are offered antiretroviral therapy and informed of the benefits of antiretroviral therapy in improving their personal health and reducing HIV infectiousness”. 

HIV Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP)

PrEP is the newest HIV prevention tool available. PrEP is medication which you can take before exposure to HIV (including before sex) to prevent HIV infection. PrEP is used by HIV negative people to prevent them from becoming HIV positive. PrEP is best used in combination with other HIV prevention measures.

PrEP is not currently available in Ireland through the HSE, though some people are accessing it themselves. If you are accessing PrEP yourself, it is important that you are monitored for HIV, other STIs and side-effects from the medications. Discuss this with your doctor or nurse. 


HIV Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP)

HIV post exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is a course of HIV medication that aims to prevent HIV infection following a recent exposure to HIV, such as through condomless sex, sharing needles or pricking yourself with an infected needle.

PEP must be started within 72 hours (3 days and nights) after a possible exposure to HIV, and sooner if possible. A full course of PEP is for 28 days (4 weeks).

PEP is available in many STI clinics. If it is not possible to get PEP from your STI clinic within 72 hours, PEP can be accessed in a number of emergency departments.

The list of locations where PEP is available in Ireland is here

EMI Toolkit

Guidelines for the Emergency Management of Injuries and Post-exposure Prophylaxis (PEP)

(including needlestick and sharps injuries, sexual exposure and human bites) where there is a risk of transmission of bloodborne viruses and other infectious diseases, are available at http://www.hpsc.ie/a-z/EMIToolkit/.