HIV is now considered a long term manageable illness. This means we expect people with HIV to live longer, continue with their work, education, have families and live their own life, have their own dreams and aspirations.

HIV is spread through the exchange of bodily fluids. This most commonly happens during unprotected sexual contact, such as vaginal, oral and anal sex. Most new infections come from unprotected sex with someone who doesn’t know they have HIV.

People who inject drugs and share needles are also at risk of catching HIV. The condition can also be spread from a mother to her unborn child.

Condoms are the best barrier against HIV, other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unplanned pregnancies.

PEPSE - Post Exposure Prophylaxis (after sexual exposure to HIV)

If you have had a condom breakage or had unprotected sex with someone who may have HIV, free treatment is available which can prevent you contracting the virus. The sooner you receive the treatment, the better. Call us as soon as possible. Tel 01904 721111.

If our clinics are closed PEPSE is available from all Accident and Emergency departments in North Yorkshire and York.

PrEP - Pre Exposure Prophylaxis (before exposure to HIV)

Pre-exposure prophylaxis is a course of HIV drugs taken before sex to reduce the risk of getting HIV. It is taken as a tablet once a day and research suggests that if it is taken every day as directed, it is very effective in preventing HIV transmission.

PrEP is intended for people who are at high risk of getting HIV. This includes people with a partner who is HIV positive or those who have multiple sexual partners and find it hard to use condoms.

At the moment PrEP is not available on the NHS but it’s available by private prescription from some sexual health clinics and from some online pharmacies. If you’re thinking about getting PrEP from outside the NHS it’s important that you talk to an adviser from a sexual health clinic. In North Yorkshire and York we are currently unable to offer PrEP but can support you to use the treatment safely and provide necessary tests. More information about PEP and PrEP is available here and in the PrEP factsheet


Symptoms of HIV may occur two to six weeks after being infected.

These early symptoms are often very mild, so it is easy to mistake them for another condition, such as a cold or glandular fever. Anyone concerned about the risk of HIV infection should request a test.

Getting tested

If you're concerned about HIV you should contact your local sexual health clinic or GP practice as soon as possible or request a free and confidential STI postal test kit here. Early diagnosis of HIV can make a real difference. The sooner you find out you have HIV, the better it is for your health. If you have HIV for a long time without knowing, it can damage your body and even shorten your life. Test negative and you end any worries or doubt.

Our Community Outreach Team, Yorkshire Mesmac, also offer free, fast and confidential HIV testing throughout York and North Yorkshire. You can book an appointment online here or call their York office on 01904 620400 or their North Yorkshire office on 01609 258745.


Thanks to HIV drugs, doctors now see the infection as something that people can live very well with for a lifetime. Treatments need to be started as early as possible and will protect the immune system.They are not a cure for HIV because they cannot completely rid the body of the virus. For this reason HIV treatment is life-long.

Someone taking medication and with an undetectable 'viral load' cannot pass on HIV. Viral load is how much HIV is in someone’s body, measured by a blood test. Treatment can push levels of HIV so low that tests show it’s at ‘undetectable’ levels.

Useful links

Living with HIV videos

As part of the 'It Starts With Me' campaign, HIV Prevention England (HPE) have released videos featuring people living with HIV talking about the impact of treatment on their lives. The campaign is produced by Terrence Higgins Trust for HPE. You can watch all the videos on their YouTube channel here.