Dr. Phelan By General Practitioner Published:

HIV has been the subject of some encouraging news recently. There’s a new drug being developed in Israel which appears to cause HIV-infected cells to self-destruct without harming healthy cells.

Tests show promising results but human trials have not yet taken place.

Researchers elsewhere continue to learn more about the way that HIV affects the human body. A trial conducted among HIV-positive children in South Africa found that 10 per cent appeared to have an immune system that prevented them from developing full-blown AIDS.

Scientists suggest that this may be the first signs of ‘co-evolution’ of HIV in humans and are now using the research to develop new treatments.

But while there have been many breakthroughs since HIV and AIDS were first discovered, there is still work to do in terms of prevention and cure.

It is estimated that more than 100,000 people in the UK have HIV ; 17% of them are undiagnosed and are unaware of their infection.

December 1st is World Aids Day, when people worldwide unite to fight HIV, show support for those living with the virus and commemorate those who have died.

Sadly, there is stigma attached to a diagnosis of HIV/AIDS. It can be very difficult for those diagnosed to disclose or discuss their feelings, especially as so many myths about the disease prevail. I’m using this article to tackle some of them:

You can’t get pregnant if you have HIV

HIV can be passed from mother to child via the birth canal and breast milk. However, thanks to effective treatments in the UK, 99.5% of children born from HIV positive mothers don’t have the virus.

If you have HIV, you’ll always get AIDS

Treatment for HIV has improved massively since the virus was first discovered in the 1980s. In the UK, currently only 0.3 per cent of those with HIV develop AIDS.

You’ll die early

Thanks to improved drug regimens, HIV can be managed. Complications can still exist but many patients are able to live, full and productive lives.

HIV only infects gay men

Anyone who is sexually active and has unprotected sex or who shares needles, regardless of whether they are gay, straight or bisexual, can contract HIV after being exposed to the virus. However, HIV rates in the UK are higher in gay and bisexual men and those of an African background. Statistics from Public Health England show that in 2013, 95% of those who contracted HIV in the UK in that year did so through unprotected sex.

You can’t touch people who are HIV positive

HIV is found in the semen, vaginal fluid, blood and breast milk of infected people. You cannot catch HIV from day-to-day contact with an infected person. People who are on effective HIV treatment can even become non-infectious.

Everyone has the power to stop HIV. Get tested, get treated, get talking.

Support is available to patients and their families via their GP, HIV clinic or through charities such as the Terence Higgins Trust.

Dr Alexandra Phelan is a working NHS GP and member of the Pharmacy Online Doctor service. Visit www.pharmacy2u.co.uk/onlinedoctor for further information. Click here to learn more about HIV Home Blood Testing.