HIV: what your positive screening test result means – GOV.UK

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Updated 19 May 2022

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One of your recent screening tests was positive for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). This information explains what HIV is and what it means for you and your pregnancy.
HIV is a virus carried in the blood which targets and weakens the body’s immune system. Without treatment a person with HIV is at risk of developing serious infections and health complications which a healthy immune system would usually prevent or fight off.
Although there is no cure for HIV, treatment today is extremely effective at keeping the virus under control, allowing your immune system to stay strong. Most people living with HIV have a normal life expectancy.
HIV can be passed from:
HIV is not spread through everyday contact such as coughing or kissing, or sharing bathrooms, toilets, food, cups, or towels.
A mother can pass HIV to her baby during pregnancy, at birth or when breastfeeding, resulting in the baby having HIV. Starting HIV treatment as early as possible and taking it as advised by the HIV team makes the chances of passing HIV to your baby extremely low – less than 0.3% or 3 in every 1,000 babies.
A team of health professionals will work together to look after you and support you during your pregnancy.
You will be prescribed medication to take each day while you are pregnant. This antiretroviral medication will reduce the amount of virus in your body and reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to your baby. This treatment is safe for you and your baby and has very few side effects.
If your HIV is well controlled and you have an uncomplicated pregnancy your choices for delivery will not be affected by HIV.
Breastfeeding carries a risk of transmitting HIV to your baby, even if you are on effective antiretroviral treatment. While the risk is thought to be very low, the safest option is to exclusively formula feed your baby from birth. Your HIV team will talk to you about feeding your baby before the delivery.
Your screening team will refer you to your local HIV team if you have not been referred already. Further blood tests and health checks will be carried out and you will then be advised to start treatment.
The team will support you to talk to your partner and family about your diagnosis when you are ready and help to arrange testing for them if necessary.
It is important that you attend all your appointments during pregnancy to make sure you stay healthy and to keep the risk of passing the virus on to your baby is as low as possible. After pregnancy you will need to continue to see your HIV team and take treatment, to ensure you maintain a healthy immune system for the future.
It is important that the health professionals involved in you and your baby’s care are aware of your HIV, so that you both receive safe and effective treatment.
The NHS screening programmes use personal information from your NHS records to invite you for screening at the right time. Your information is also used to make sure you receive high quality care and to improve the screening programmes. Find out more about how your information is used and protected, and your options.
You can find out more about HIV from:
If you have any other questions or concerns please talk to your screening team or midwife.
Don’t include personal or financial information like your National Insurance number or credit card details.
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