What’s your status?
The only way to find out if you have HIV is to have an HIV test, as symptoms of HIV may not appear for many years. The sooner we know that someone has HIV the better the long term outcome.
If you’re worried you’ve been at risk, a test can put your mind at ease and end those worries and doubts.
HIV testing is FREE of charge on the NHS regardless of immigration status.
In the UK you can test anonymously at any Sexual Health Clinic. You can also test at your GP.
Nottingham sexual health services can offer HIV results during your appointment. Clinics are run by trained health professionals. No one else will know your test results unless you choose to tell them.
Nottingham Sexual Health Service offer different types of HIV testing:
Blood test – where a sample of blood is taken in a clinic and sent for testing in a laboratory. Results are available within 2 weeks.
Point of care test (City Campus only) – where a small spot of blood from your finger is taken in a clinic. This sample doesn't need to be sent to a laboratory and the results are available during your appointment. If the results are ‘reactive’ we will book you into GUM for a further blood test to confirm these results and will also offer support. If your result is non-reactive we may still recommend further screening for STIs and vaccination if required.
How often should I test for HIV?
Any time you change sexual partner or every three months if changing partners more frequently.
The Department of Sexual Health and HIV, Nottingham City Hospital runs the HIV outpatient service. There are clinics running every day of the week. These take place in the GU Medicine building as well as in the Main outpatients building (Clinic 5) at Nottingham City Hospital. A once monthly clinic takes place at the Mary Potter centre in Hyson Green.
These are run by Consultants in Sexual Health/HIV and Infectious Diseases.
During the current coronavirus pandemic the majority of our appointments are virtual (telephone or video call). A few patients will be asked to come in to the hospital to be seen face-to-face.
We will contact you before your appointment to confirm what type of appointment it will be. If we are unable to speak to you we will send you a sms.
Covid vaccine in HIV
SARS-CoV-2 vaccine advice for adults living with HIV: British HIV Association (BHIVA) & Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) guidance - Plain English version
This guidance will develop rapidly; please see the BHIVA website for the latest version
The UK was the first country to approve the use of a COVID-19 vaccine, which is being referred to as ‘The Pfizer vaccine,’ and vaccination with this started on the 8th December 2020. There is also another vaccine, known as ‘the AstraZeneca vaccine’ or ‘the Oxford vaccine,’ which has also been shown to be very effective at preventing COVID-19 and this is currently being assessed for approval. Other vaccines are in the pipeline.
Are these vaccines safe in people with HIV?
Some of the trials for the two most advanced vaccines have included a small number of people with HIV. There is no reason to think these vaccines will be less safe for people with HIV. Both include some of the genetic material from SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) but not the whole virus. This means they are not live vaccines and so are no less safe in people with damaged immune systems.
It is possible that people with HIV might not respond as well to the vaccine. This means that the vaccine might trigger a weaker response in people with HIV. We will monitor any new evidence as it is released and will update this advice if and when needed.
Who will get the vaccine?
People will receive the vaccine in strict order of priority based on their age, health, occupation, whether they live in a care or residential home and who they live with. Vaccines will be offered strictly based on these priorities. There is no way to jump the queue, and you will be contacted when your vaccine is due.
There are 9 priority groups: those in priority group 1 will get the vaccine first, followed by each in turn up until priority 9. After that the vaccine will be offered to everyone else (that is all the people not in priority groups 1-9).
Everyone with HIV is automatically in priority group 6 so you will get the vaccine earlier than many people. If your clinic thinks you are at higher risk you can be put into priority group 4, and get the vaccine sooner, but you will need to be added to a central NHS list to be put into priority group 4. We advise that the people at higher risk may include:
People with a CD4 count less than 50
People with a serious HIV-related illness (e.g. an opportunistic infection) in the last 6 months
People with a CD4 count between 50 and 200 with other issues that increase the risk of getting very sick, such as:
- Detectable viral load
- Low nadir CD4 (the lowest CD4 before starting HIV treatment)
- Other medical conditions associated with increased risk of severe COVID (such as asthma, COPD, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, motor neurone disease, conditions or drugs that suppress the immune system (e.g. steroid treatment), severe obesity.
People with ‘multi-morbidity’ meaning that they have other health conditions that may increase the risk of getting very sick.
A full list of the different priority groups:
Will I have to have the vaccine?
No, nobody has to have the vaccine. However, we strongly recommend that everyone who is offered the vaccine accepts it. Although vaccine development has been very fast, it has been to the same high standards as any other vaccine trial and includes very careful monitoring of side effects. If anything changes we will update this guidance.
Does having the vaccine mean I don’t have to follow social distancing rules?
No. It will take many months to vaccinate everyone and it remains important to continue to wash your hands regularly, to wear a mask and to follow your local guidance about social distancing.
If you’re HIV negative, you may be able to take pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medication to reduce your risk of getting the virus.
PrEP is available for some people who are at high risk of HIV infection- for example those whose partner is HIV positive and not on treatment or those who have regular unprotected anal sex with partners of unknown HIV status.
Undetectable = Untransmittable
When someone with HIV takes effective treatment everyday their viral load should be reduced to undetectable levels.
Having a consistently undetectable viral load for 6 months or more means it isn't possible to pass on the virus.
This is called undetectable=untransmittable (U=U)