Point of Care Testing (POCT)
In Buckinghamshire all of our bSHaW Sexual Health Clinics offer Point of Care Testing by taking a finger-prick blood sample. Find out where you can get tested by using our service finder tool or calling 0300 303 2880.
Point of Care Testing, also known as rapid HIV testing, is a relatively new way of testing for HIV which enables you to get your results in less than 30 minutes.
There are variations in the method of POCT, aidsmap explains the detail well.
‘Post-exposure prophylaxis after sexual exposure’ (PEPSE) is medication to prevent infection with HIV after a recent risk of exposure to the virus. In this situation the risk is unprotected sex with someone who is HIV positive or thought possibly to be HIV positive. Unprotected sex means sex without a condom, or sex with a condom which breaks or comes off during sex.
By far the best policy is to avoid getting infected with HIV. Although PEPSE can be very useful in emergency situations, using condoms during sex is the most effective way of preventing HIV infection.
Do I need to take PEPSE?
If you are HIV negative or have never had an HIV test, you should seek advice if, in the last 72 hours-
- You think you may have come into contact with HIV during unprotected sex, or-
- You were sexually assaulted by a stranger
The risk of catching HIV from a single sex act is very small. However, research shows that becoming infected with HIV is less likely if you take PEPSE. PEPSE does not work every time and some people may be infected with HIV despite taking PEPSE. PEPSE is less likely to work if you miss tablets or if you don’t complete the full 28 day course.
If you think you need PEPSE ask for help immediately. Do not delay, as every hour counts. The sooner PEP is started, the more likely it is to work; within 24 hours is best, but no later than 72 hours (three days). It is important for you to know that PEPSE is not always needed after unprotected sex. The drugs are the same ones taken by people with HIV, and for PEP to work they must be taken for four weeks
It is free of charge but can only be prescribed by doctors and if certain criteria are met. Sexual health and HIV clinics can provide it, as can Accident & Emergency departments of hospitals. Regular family doctors (GPs) don’t give PEP.
Where can I get PEP?
PEP is available from bSHaW Specialist Sexual Health Clinics. However, please be aware that all Clinics are closed on Bank Holidays, therefore in case of an emergency:
If somebody needs PEP when the clinics are closed people should go to A&E at Stoke Mandeville Hospital for sexual exposure and for occupational exposure the Urgent Treatment Centre (UTC) or A&E.
Find your nearest bSHaW Specialist Sexual Health Clinic here
PrEP (Pre Exposure Prophylaxis) is a course of HIV drugs taken by HIV negative people before sex to reduce the chance of getting HIV.
Results in trials have been very successful, with PrEP significantly lowering the risk of becoming HIV positive and without major side effects.
The medication used for PrEP is a tablet called Truvada, which contains tenofovir and emtricitabine (which are drugs commonly used to treat HIV).
A 3 year clinical trial called the PrEP Impact Trial has now started across England, which will involve at least 10,000 participants and will answer key questions on the extent of need, uptake and duration of the use of PrEP in the setting of sexual health clinics. For more information on this please click on the following link. The PrEP Impact Trial website
You can find out more about PrEP on the Terrence Higgins Trust website.
Terrence Higgins Trust has set up the fund to support HIV-negative people who need PrEP but are not able to access it on the NHS and can’t afford to buy it themselves. The Fund is open to people living in England and Northern Ireland who are on no income (except benefits).
Dr Mags Portman, after whom the fund is named, is a pioneer within the sexual health sector and is acknowledged as one of the key players in helping raise awareness of and support for PrEP in the UK. Find out more
What is HIV?
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus.
HIV infects and gradually destroys an infected person’s immune system, reducing their protection against infection and cancers. You need to have been infected with HIV to develop AIDS.
Without HIV treatment and care, people with HIV will experience damage to their immune system and will develop AIDS-defining illnesses at some point in the future.
AIDS stands for ‘acquired immune deficiency syndrome’. It means a collection of illnesses (‘syndrome’) caused by a virus people pick up (‘acquire’) that makes their immune system get weak (‘immune deficiency’). You cannot get an AIDS diagnosis unless you are already HIV positive.
Initially, someone living with HIV may show no symptoms of HIV infection as their immune system manages to control it. However, in most cases their immune system will need help from anti-HIV drugs to keep the HIV infection under control. These drugs do not completely rid the body of HIV infection.
How is HIV transmitted?
HIV is not passed on easily from one person to another, especially compared to other viruses. That’s because HIV is present in body fluids (e.g. semen, vaginal fluids, breast milk, blood). So for HIV to be passed on, the body fluids of someone who is already infected have to get into an uninfected person’s body and then into their bloodstream.
Other body fluids, like saliva, sweat or urine, do not contain enough of the virus to infect another person.
The main ways that HIV can be transmitted are:
- through sexual intercourse and other sexual activities
- from mother to baby
- from blood to blood
- sharing injecting equipment
Find loads more information about HIV, how it is transmitted, when testing is most effective and how it works, by visiting the National AIDS Trust website.
It starts with me… If we all test, we can help stop HIV.
Source “IT STARTS WITH ME” Published Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Support for people living with HIV
Sexual Health Clinics
Wycombe and Aylesbury Genito-Urinary Medicine (GUM) clinics offer a sexual health monitoring service each week for regular health check ups and blood tests for people who are living with HIV.
HIV Support Service
Direct support is available to people living with HIV and their carers within Buckinghamshire. The Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) provide one to one support and assistance to our service users, which could include help with emotional and social issues such as disclosure, information and advice to help improve your health, as well as advocacy in relation to housing, benefits and charitable applications. THT will link with HIV Treatment and Care Services and Adult Social Care where appropriate.
We will see clients by appointment at a mutually convenient time. People living with HIV who have concerns and those concerned about their risk of HIV please email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call Nigel French on: 07917550248
Online support for people living with HIV:
Terrence Higgins Trust – http://www.tht.org.uk
My HIV –Bottom of Form http://www.myhiv.org.uk/
National AIDS Trust – http://www.nat.org.uk – 0207 814 6767
Sexual Health Line – 0800 567 123 also offers advice in some other languages on request.
African AIDS Helpline – 0800 0967500
Friday/Monday was launched by Terence Higgins Trust and London Friend as the first online counselling service for gay and bi men offering information about sex and drugs. To access more information or services click here
This page was last updated on April 18, 2019