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Living with HIV


Did you know Birmingham has one of the highest rates of undiagnosed HIV outside London? One in five people living in the UK are unaware they are carrying the infection (source: Saving Lives).

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus most commonly caught by having sex without a condom. It can also be passed on by sharing infected needles and other injecting equipment.

A fever, sore throat and body rash are the most common symptoms of HIV. Other symptoms can include tiredness, joint pain and swollen glands. It is important to know that these symptoms can all be caused by conditions other than HIV.  However if you have several of these symptoms and you think you have been at risk of HIV infection, you should get tested.

National HIV Testing Week is all about encouraging people to have an HIV test. The earlier HIV is detected, the more likely it is that treatment will be successful. If left untreated, the virus will attack the immune system and weaken your ability to fight infections and diseases.

Heartlands Hospital provides one of the leading HIV services in the Midlands and is dedicated to the diagnosis, treatment and management of patients who have the disease. The service has been acknowledged for their expertise both nationally and internationally.

Jordana Freemantle, specialist HIV dietician at Heartlands Hospital, says: “We offer specialist assessment and ongoing management of HIV and its associated conditions within a dedicated clinical environment. Our focus is keeping patients well. In this way we maximise every outcome for our patients, putting them at the very centre of the management of their condition and of each decision made about their treatment. Our high quality care is responsive to the needs of our local area and we are embedded in the local community.

“We provide HIV tests each week, enabling those who attend our clinics to know whether they are HIV positive or negative. HIV is usually diagnosed by a simple blood test. A negative test is an opportunity to learn how to stay safe in the future. A positive test will lead to treatment.

“Self-management is key to living well. Taking medicines, writing down medical records and being aware of the condition are all part of staying healthy. As well as taking HIV medication, exercising regularly and eating healthily will help reduce the risk of becoming ill.

“As part of my role, I advise on any dietary changes people may need to make if they become ill, help identify any food allergies and also provide information on the use of vitamins and minerals.  I will also make sure people are fulfilling their nutritional requirements.

“HIV is now a manageable condition. Living with HIV is still a challenge but its one we’re here to help people excel in meeting.”

For more information on HIV, please visit the Sexual Health Birmingham website: You can follow them on Twitter @healthysexbrum. Our Trust also works alongside Saving Lives. Join in the conversation on Twitter by following @SavingLivesUK and using the hashtag #GetTested.

National HIV Testing Week takes place between 22-30 November 2014.

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