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If you have experienced exposure to HIV within the last 72 hours you can receive Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) to prevent HIV transmission. Please call us for an assessment as soon as possible, as the sooner the treatment is started the more effective it is.

What is it?

HIV is a virus that damages the body’s immune system; this makes it difficult to fight off infections and diseases.

Although there is currently no cure for HIV, effective treatment is available.

How is it passed on?

The virus is passed on through exchanging bodily fluids (such as semen, vaginal fluid, blood or breast milk)

The most common ways HIV is passed on are:

  • Having vaginal or anal sex without a condom.
  • Sharing needles or injecting equipment
  • From mother to child during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding. This can be prevented with medication.

You can’t get HIV from sharing toilet seats, towels, cups, plates, cutlery, food or shaking hands and kissing.

What are the symptoms?

Most people who are infected with HIV experience a short, flu-like illness that happens two to six weeks after infection.

Not everyone experiences early symptoms. Longer-term symptoms can include weight loss, skin rashes, swollen glands, diarrhoea and infections.

HIV can affect anyone and people with HIV can look and feel healthy for years so the only way to know whether you have HIV is to get tested.

How do you test for it?

A blood test is the most common way to test for HIV. The blood test is not a fasting blood test, so please eat and drink as normal prior to your appointment

It can take 45 days for HIV to show up on a blood test. If you test whilst you are still within this “window period” you may need to repeat your test once you are outside the window period. If you experience any concerning symptoms, please contact LSH so we can offer an assessment as soon as possible.

Some pharmacies in Luton also offer testing, please see our HIV testing page for more info.

What is the treatment?

If you test positive for HIV, we will discuss the options for treatment with you. It is recommended that people with HIV start treatment as soon as possible.

When HIV is managed well, by taking medication correctly every day you are able to prevent the HIV damaging your immune system. This enables most people with the virus to live a long and healthy life as long as the infection is found and treated early.

Luton Sexual Health provides free treatment and care for people living with HIV in a relaxed, non-judgmental environment. Please see here for more details.

Find out how to avoid STIs.