It has never been more important to know your HIV status and it has never been simpler to get tested. Approximately 101,600 people are living with HIV in the UK according to Terrance Higgins Trust.

 Of the 4,363 people diagnosed with HIV in the UK in 2017, 53% were gay or bisexual men. Of the 1,810 heterosexual people diagnosed with HIV in 2017, 38% were black African men and women.

It is still estimated that around 7,800 people in the UK remain undiagnosed. (Have not been tested) reasons for this are that that HIV can be present in the body for years without showing any sign of symptoms.

It is suggested that gay, bisexual men and other Men that have sex with men should present for an HIV test annually.

We at SexSmart  recommend that if you change sexual partners regularly you get tested every 3 to 6 months. You can get tested for HIV FREE of charge at your local sexual health clinic, and in lancashire through HORIZON and Healthier Living at Renaissance. 

The best way to prevent contracting HIV is to use a condom for anal sex. Not only will this protect you from HIV but also all other sexually transmitted Infections. However there are also new ways to prevent HIV that can be used in addition to condoms

PEPSE or PeP – Post Exposure prophylaxis (PEPSE) 

If you believe that you have come into contact with the HIV virus, either by engaging in penetrative sex without a condom, sharing a sex toy, sharing injecting drug equipment (* see also “Chemsex”) or for any other reason when you feel that you may have been exposed to the virus then you can present at your local sexual health clinic or at Accident and Emergency at any hospital to talk about PEPSE or PeP.
PEPSE and Pep is a 1 month course of high strength anti-retroviral medication that can, if taken properly, suppress the HIV virus before it develops in your body and therefore stop you contracting the virus.

PEPSE/PeP can only be taken however up to 72 hours after exposure, clinicians prefer you to begin the course within 24 hours. There is a lot of bad press out there that talks about horrific side effects from taking PEPSE and PeP. As with all medication some people can experience side effects however the side effects these days from a course of PEPSE or PeP are minimal and you will receive support and medical assistance while you are taking the course both during and afterwards.

Remember You must access PEPSE or PeP within 72 Hours of exposure (preferable 24 hours) and if the sexual health clinic is not open you can get PeP and PEPSE from Accident and Emergency at the hospital. DO NOT LEAVE WITHOUT IT

Treatment as Prevention.

If you receive a positive diagnosis the chances are you will be prescribed anti-retroviral treatment from you clinician. When taken effectively these drugs can lower the amount of HIV Virus in your body to what is called an Undetectable Status. With careful monitoring and an effective administration of this medication an undetectable status can be achieved and thus meaning that the HIV virus is suppressed enough that there is a very low risk of passing on the virus. At present there is still no cure for HIV but with an undetectable status you are dramatically reducing the risk of any sexual partners contracting the virus.

PreP – Pre Exposure Prophylaxis

PreP is a combination drug that if taken correctly can reduce the risk of contracting the HIV Virus. It is formulated to be taken by someone that is negative of HIV before exposure can occur and it is advised to be taken at least 1 week before it can become effective. People that would benefit from taking PreP are those that regularly have sex with HIV positive partners without using condoms or those that engage in Chemsex.

Studies have been undertaken including the PROUD study in England who, in 2014, reported that PreP dramatically reduced the risk of HIV infection by 86%. It is however believed that the benefit of taking PreP is much higher than this. 

At present PreP is on trail in the UK. The IMPACT Trial is live through clinical sexual health services across England. PreP is available in Scotland and Wales. For those that are in England and cannot access the IMPACT Trial, PreP can be bought legally online from outside the EU for personal use. More information on PreP can be found at or . It is a MUST that you speak to a sexual health practitioner at your local sexual health clinic before you start to take PreP. All clinics in the UK will monitor your Kidney function and general health free of charge of you choose to purchase and take PreP privately. 

PLEASE REMEMEBER – Although PreP is proven to dramatically reduce the risk of contracting the HIV virus, it in no way protects you from any other Sexually Transmitted Infection or Blood Born Virus (BBV). The only way to reduce the risk of all STI’s and BBV’s while having sex is to use a condom.