In this section you will find: General information on living with HIV with additional information for: Men who have sex with men Women who have sex with women
Living with HIV - Blood to Blood Tranmission Menstruation women Injecting drug users Tatooing and piercing Medical Assistance
Living with HIV - Having a Baby
Living with HIV - Partners, Family, Friends and Co-Workers Family Sexual Partner Co-Workers
General Information On Living With HIV
If you have received a HIV diagnosis you may be worried about sharing sexual activity with anyone.
You do not need to tell your sexual partner that you are living with HIV. At the end of the day you can negotiate sexual activity in such a way as to prevent HIV transmission, but you may wish to talk to them and tell them so they can take responsibility for their own sexual health. It is recommended that sexual partners of people living with HIV get tested on a regular basis to be certain HIV has not been transmitted.
It is possible to have a full and active sex life even though you are living with HIV. It is recommended that you learn what you need to do to prevent yourself from being at further risk from other sexually transmitted infections. We can help you with that.
If you wish to talk to someone about beginning a sexual relationship again after your diagnosis, or about your current sexual relationship(s), then you are welcome to contact us to avail of our free confidential counselling service.
Some things to remember: There is a risk of HIV transmission even if the man who is living with HIV withdraws his penis before ejaculation (before he cums), as a fluid (pre-cum) is released during sex which carries HIV There is a higher risk of HIV transmission if the woman who is living with HIV is also menstruating (on her period) as her vaginal fluid and the blood from her womb both carry HIV Anal fluid can carry a very high load of HIV so anal sex does not prevent HIV transmission The lower the viral load (amount of HIV) you have, the lower the risk of HIV transmission
More information on how to prevent HIV transmission during sexual activity is available in our prevention - sexual transmission page.
We can also supply free condoms, females condoms, glyde dams and gloves to assist you to continue with a happy and healthy sex life. Please contact the project for more information.
If you living in a situation where negotiating safer sex (using condoms) seems impossible for you please contact us so together we can discuss your options and help you to find a solution that is suitable for you.
Men who have sex with men Specific information about having sex with other men when you are living with HIV can be found from places like the Gay Men's Health Services, whose information is on our links page.
Generally the information you require is the same whether you are having sex with men or women but there are other things you can do to reduce the risk of HIV transmission.
If the person who is living with HIV receives anal penetration then the risk of HIV transmission to the person who is penetrating will be reduced. It is considered a higher risk if you receive unprotected anal penetration. This is called 'Strategic Positioning' and is practiced in many sexual relationships where one man is living with HIV and another man is not living with HIV (sero-discordant relationship).
Women who have sex with women Whilst there are few statistics about woman to woman transmission and it is considered a low risk, it is possible for women to transmit HIV through sexual activity with each other.
Generally the information you require is the same whether you are having sex with men or women but if you require specific information you can contact our Queer Community Support Worker directly or call our Confidential Helpline.
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Living with HIV - Blood to Blood Transmission
Menstruating women If you are a woman living with HIV you may wish to refrain from sexual activity whilst you are on your period. This is not necessary if you always use barriers such as condoms, female condoms, gloves and glyde dams. For more information about sex and HIV check out our prevention - sexual transmission page.
If you are concerned that a sexual partner of yours may have been at risk from blood to blood transmission there may be some things they can do to reduce their chances of developing HIV. Please visit our PEP page or call our confidential helpline.
Injecting drug users If you know you are living with HIV then try not to share your equipment or needles with anyone else. If you find this is impossible to do, then you may reduce the risk of transmitting HIV by cleaning them out.
If there is a needle exchange program in your area we recommend you contact them as a regular supply of new needles and equipment will make it easier for you to maintain your current health status and prevent further infection of HIV, Hep C or other blood born infections.
If you are on HIV medication and also injecting drugs there is more information available to you on our treatment pages.
If you wish to discuss your alcohol or other drug use please got to our services provided page which has details of our recovery support service for those who want to either stop taking or change their use to a safer level.
Tattooing and Piercing It is not necessary to tell your tattooist or body piercing artist that you are HIV positive. They should be using universal precautions and disposing of all items after every session with each customer. If you feel safe enough to tell them you may do so, but you don't have to.
Medical Assistance including first aid As all qualified first aid practitioners and medical practitioners are trained in the use of universal procedures it should not be necessary to tell them about your HIV status unless you feel it is necessary. Some people who are living with HIV wear a medical identification bracelet or necklace, which carries relevant information for the emergency services.
You may need to tell a medical practitioner that you are living with HIV. Your doctor, your midwife and your consultant will already know, but other medical practitioners (like dentists) will not. You may like to consider if you feel HIV is relevant to the reason you visiting them. If HIV is relevant, then it might be better to tell them. At the end of the day it is up to you.
Some complementary therapists, such as acupuncturists, use needles and therefore are trained in the use of universal procedures. Others, such as reiki practitioners, do not.
It is up to you to decide whether you wish to tell complementary therapists about your status. One thing to consider may be that the complementary therapist will be able to provide a more accurate service if you tell them your HIV status.
For example: A homeopath has no need to put needles into you so there is no risk of blood to blood HIV transmission but they will be able to give you a more accurate remedy if you tell them about your HIV status.
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Living with HIV - Having a Baby If you are living with HIV and considering having a child you may be worried about your baby contracting HIV from you during pregnancy.
If you have just received a HIV positive result from your doctor and are already pregnant; you may be shocked, confused and upset. It is possible that you have a lot of questions and you need answers.
Some of the information you may require is on this site but as each individual case is different then you can contact us for more specific support and information.
If the correct medical treatment is provided the chances of your baby being born with HIV is reduced to only 2%. This means that there is a 98% chance your baby will be born HIV negative.
So there is a very real chance for you to have a baby that is NOT HIV positive.
It is extremely important that you take all of your medicine as prescribed by your HIV doctor. Missed doses can cause the virus to become resistant to the medicine, making them less likely to work effectively. This is true for both you as a woman living with HIV and for your baby.
If you are diagnosed with HIV very late in pregnancy and there is no time for the anti-HIV medicines to work, a caesarean section will be recommended.
All mothers living with HIV pass on HIV antibodies to their babies during pregnancy. Therefore at birth all babies born to women living with HIV will have a positive HIV antibody test result. This does not mean that your baby has HIV.
Another test is used to check the baby's blood directly for the presence of the virus. This is called a 'PCR' test (It is similar to the viral load test). If the baby is living with HIV the PCR test will become positive by three to six months of age.
If the PCR tests at three and six months are negative then the baby is living with HIV. Your baby will continue to be tested until the HIV antibody test becomes negative. This may take up to 18 months after birth.
Throughout your baby's growth into a child it is recommended that you do not breast feed. This can cause mother to baby transmission of HIV. If you are living in an environment where bottle feeding will be hard to manage you are welcome to contact us to discuss your options.
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Living with HIV - Partners, Family, Friends and Co-Workers Upon hearing that someone you know is living with HIV it may cause many different emotions in you. Hopefully you will have heard it directly from the person themselves, and it will have taken a lot of courage for them to tell you. It is usual to experience shock, anger, fear, hurt, worry and confusion. You may not know anything about HIV at all.
This section will cover some of the basic things you may need to know. Everyone has different levels of knowledge and we all respond differently to life situations. We would recommend that as well as communicating with the person who is living with HIV, you also contact us. (link to contact information) Talking to someone at the red ribbon project, in confidence may help to clear up myths and misinformation you already have about HIV, and can also offer a safe space for you to express your emotions.
Someone who is living with HIV is a person who has received a positive diagnosis for HIV from a doctor or specialist. They may have only just received the information, or they could have been living with the knowledge for quite sometime. It does not mean that they have AIDS and in most cases they will continue to live a long and healthy life.
You may feel that you have been at risk. This is unlikely in every day situations. HIV cannot be transmitted through: Sneezing, coughing or generally being ill Kissing, hugging or holding hands Sharing cutlery, cups or dishes Sharing towels, bathrooms and toilets Sharing washing machines, bedding or clothes General everyday activities like sitting in a room together
It may be difficult for you to believe at first but HIV can only be transmitted in certain ways. You can continue living with, visiting or working with someone who is living with HIV and not be at risk. Sometimes the initial shock of hearing your partner, friend or family member has received a HIV diagnosis can prompt strong reactions like not wanting to touch them, hug them or eat with them. Knowing the facts about HIV can help you to recover from this shock.
Once you have recovered from the shock, depending on the nature of your relationship with the person, you may be able to offer support. People who are living with HIV can often be scared of rejection by family and friends. If they have told you their status it means they have placed a huge trust in you. If someone has recently been diagnosed they may not have answers to a lot of the questions you might have. Try not to bombard them with questions. You can get information from us. The important thing is to listen and treat them the same as you always did.
One thing you may like to learn, if you don't already know the information, are the universal precautions.
Family As there is no risk of HIV transmission from everyday contact with someone who is living with HIV, no-one in your family will be at risk from HIV. There is no need to stop family members from seeing each other, cuddling each other or playing games together. HIV can only be transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy, and birth or after birth whilst breast feeding. There is no direct route of transmission for children from parents through everyday circumstances.
Sexual Partners If you are a sexual partner of someone who is HIV positive you may be worried about whether you have caught HIV. It is important to remember that unless you get a HIV test you cannot know. Lying in bed and worrying about it will not tell you the answer, having a HIV test is the only way to know. You may like to think about getting tested for HIV. The red ribbon project can offer you information and support. HIV is quite a weak virus compared to other blood born viruses and it can be killed in many ways. It can also be blocked by barriers such as condoms.
You may also be concerned that your partner has had sex with other people outside of your relationship. This is not necessarily the case. In a lot of cases people have no idea where the HIV came from as they have never been tested before and even though a single incident of risk can result in HIV transmission; most people have had more than one incident of risk. If you or your partner ever had unprotected sex with someone before you met each other then neither of you can be sure where the HIV within your relationship came from unless you have been regularly tested.
People who are living with HIV are not required to tell anyone about their HIV status. If you know someone who is living with HIV it is important that you only tell people you can trust. You may like to discuss who you can talk to with the person themselves.
Co Workers As there is no risk of HIV transmission from everyday contact with someone who is living with HIV, working with someone does not mean you will contract HIV from them.
If you are working with someone who is living with HIV then by Irish law this is classed as a disability according to Equality Legislation. This means that a person cannot be treated differently from anyone else within the workplace just because they are living with HIV. It also means that unless the person is subject to the usual disciplinary procedures for usual disciplinary situations, a person may not be suspended from work or fired because of their HIV status.
If you would like training around HIV for your workplace please go to our training section.