HIV Treatment at RIDU

HIV is a virus. Unlike other viruses that cause, for example, colds and flu, HIV remains with you for life. There is no cure for HIV, however modern anti-HIV medication is very effective, keeping the virus under control and preventing your immune system from weakening. With treatment it is likely that you will live to a normal life span.

How is HIV Transmitted?

The virus is passed through body fluids such as blood, semen, vaginal fluid and breast milk.

You can get HIV by:

  • Having vaginal or anal sex without a condom with someone who has HIV; oral sex has a lower risk but the threat is increased if you have sores in your mouth or bleeding gums
  • Sharing needles, syringes or other drug-injecting equipment that is infected with HIV
  • Receiving HIV infected blood, blood products and donated organs as part of medical treatment
  • A mother who has HIV can pass the infection on to her baby.

Since 1985 in the UK, all blood, blood products and donated organs have been screened for HIV and infected products destroyed.

You cannot get HIV by:

  • Kissing, touching, hugging, shaking hands, sharing crockery and cutlery or eating food prepared by someone with HIV, coughing or sneezing, contact with toilet seats, or from swimming pools.

Anyone who has unprotected sex or shares injecting drug equipment could get HIV.

Some groups of people are at a higher risk of getting HIV infection than others (for example gay and bisexual men, injecting drug users, people who come from an area where HIV is more common such as African countries) If you think you are at risk, please speak to your GP or contact us to organise a test.

Safer sex

Having safer sex continues to be the best way of reducing your risk of acquiring an infection in the future, or preventing onward transmission if you are HIV positive. We recommend the use of condoms to reduce the transmission of all sexually transmitted Infections, including HIV.

The Blood Test

This test looks for HIV antibodies. It can take up to three months after being infected with HIV for the antibodies to show in the blood. This period is called the ‘window’ period - it is there but not yet seen. Only by knowing that you are infected do you have a choice of using the treatments available at an appropriate stage. These treatments have been shown to dramatically reduce the risk of serious illnesses and early death from AIDS.

What does a negative HIV result mean?

A negative result means that antibodies to HIV were not detected in your blood. This usually means that you do not have HIV. If you think you have been at risk within the last three months, you should repeat a test at a later date, ensuring that you do not put yourself at risk, for example through unprotected sex or sharing injecting drug equipment, between now and the repeat test.

What does an HIV positive result mean?

A positive HIV result means that you have HIV antibodies in your blood and that you have HIV infection. The clinic provides outpatient care for people who are HIV positive, offering medical assessment and treatment with specialist care and support. If you test HIV positive, we will offer you emotional, medical and social support in the clinic. We will also discuss with you whether you need to start treatment.

Who knows the result?

The information you give us remains confidential, between you and the clinic. We will not give out any information about you to anyone including your GP unless you have given us permission. This only changes in exceptional circumstances.

HIV instant result self-test kits

Approved instant result HIV self-test kits are now available for sale on-line.

There have been other self-test kits available online, but the Biosure HIV Self test is the only one to meet European standards and carry the CE mark.These kits cost £29.95, and are not presently available via the NHS. These kits are not intended to provide a definitive diagnosis on their own.

They are very accurate if they’re used correctly: but it’s very important to follow the instructions that come with the kit carefully. Also know that it can take up to three months for HIV to show up in your blood, so if you feel you have put yourself at risk of catching HIV you should repeat the test. Remember, instant result self-testing is just one way of testing for HIV. You might prefer to be tested by a health worker. NHS tests are free, confidential and can be anonymous. They also give you the chance to be tested for other sexually transmitted infections at the same time, to talk about any concerns you have and to be referred to other services you might need.

If you do want to use a self-test kit, have a think beforehand: how you would feel and what would you do if the test shows you might have HIV? Do you have questions or want to talk about it with a health worker first? It’s also a good idea to figure out where you could go for a follow-up test or for support.

These tests are designed to provide you with information upon which to base further action, such as confirmatory testing and access to follow-up care. If the self-test kit gives a positive reactive test, you should go to your GP or a sexual health clinic or here at RIDU, which is a specialist HIV testing centre.
We can confirm the result if it’s positive, and ensure you get the right information, care and support you need quickly.

There isn’t a cure for HIV but treatment is very effective and people can live long and healthy lives.

If you get a negative result, it’s likely you don’t have HIV: so long as you followed the instructions carefully, you don’t need a follow-up test to confirm it. It’s a good idea to think about whether you need to be tested for other sexually transmitted infections, though. And remember: test for HIV regularly if you are having unprotected sex, and the best ways to prevent HIV are to use condoms and never share injecting kit.

Why Choose RIDU?

  • Centre of excellence for HIV, run by a team of dedicated, highly experienced staff
  • Centre of international HIV research enabling access to new and unlicenced therapies through clinical trials.
  • Dedicated HIV inpatient ward
  • Day bed area in out-patients
  • Outpatient clinic run to minimise disruption to working lives, including a pre-medical clinic for bloods so results are available when you see your doctor or nurse specialist.
  • Home delivery of HIV medications
  • Possibility of getting results telephoned or emailed.
  • Large integrated multi-disciplinary team involving  specialist ID consultants and associate specialists, experienced staff nurses and clinical support workers providing good continuity of care, a psychiatrist, clinical psychologist, social worker, dietician, research nurse, counsellors, and HIV specialist nurses.
  • Specialised services to the unit include dentistry, ophthalmology, and  sexual health screening
  • Close links with statutory and voluntary bodies in the community, such as Waverley Care, who offer a wide range of services including Milestone House, the community mental health nurse team and Positive Health.

How Do I Get Referred?

If you are given a positive test at your GP, they will automatically refer you to us. You will be sent an appointment and be seen within two weeks. You may feel very anxious and upset after your diagnosis, and have lots of questions, so please call the nurse specialists to receive help and support while you wait to see your consultant.

Transfering Care

If you have just moved to Edinburgh and would like to transfer your care please contact the nurse specialists to assist you. Ideally, tell your previous consultant that you plan to move your care so that they can forward a comprehensive transfer letter to us. However, if you have not had time to organise this, we can contact them on your behalf. We will ensure that you do not run out of antiviral medication, and we can help get you linked in to the various voluntary organisations in Edinburgh and the Lothian area.

Clinic Visits

To ensure that you remain in good health, regular appointments will be arranged. Most people who are HIV positive and who remain generally well attend the out-patient clinic at RIDU to see a nurse specialist or doctor two or three times a year.  If you prefer, about two weeks before these appointments, you can attend the clinic to have your routine blood tests taken. 

Phone Numbers

Ward 41 Reception (appointments) - 0131 537 2820
HIV Nurse Specialist - Linda  Panton - 0131 537 2860
HIV Nurse Specialist - Katherine Bethell - 0131 537 2840

Last Reviewed: 04/06/2015