Finding out you are HIV positive

How people cope with being diagnosed with HIV varies from person to person. The sooner your HIV infection is diagnosed, the sooner you can receive suitable medical care and support.

Receiving a positive HIV result

If you test positive for HIV, a further blood test will need to be carried out to confirm the result. If this is also positive, you will be referred to a specialist HIV clinic for some more tests and a discussion about your treatment options. The regional centre for the care of people living with HIV is based at the Royal Victoria Hospital (RVH), in Belfast.

The HIV team at the RVH includes consultant physicians supported by other medical, nursing, health advisor, social work, pharmacy and clinical psychology staff. You will also be offered support and help for emotional and practical concerns.

Finding out you have tested positive for HIV can be extremely distressing and it is common to have feelings of anxiety or depression. The HIV team can provide you with counselling so that you can fully discuss your condition and concerns.

You may find it helpful to talk to a trained counsellor or psychologist, or to someone at a specialist helpline. Some people find it helpful to talk to other people who have HIV, either at a local support group or in an internet chat room.

If you have performed a HIV self-test and the result is reactive, you must have the test result confirmed by a healthcare professional in a clinic.

More information on HIV self-testing in Northern Ireland is available on the Sexual Health website:

If you are diagnosed with HIV, you will have regular blood tests to monitor the progress of the HIV infection. This involves monitoring the amount of virus in your blood and the effect HIV is having on your immune system, by measuring the levels of CD4 cells in your blood.

When to start treatment should be discussed with your doctor.

Living with HIV

There is no cure for HIV, but there are treatments which allow most people with the virus to live a long and healthy life.

As HIV is a long-term condition, you will be in regular contact with your specialist HIV healthcare team.

Treatment for HIV

The aim of treatment is to reduce the level of HIV in the blood, allow the immune system to repair itself and prevent any HIV-related illnesses. HIV is treated with antiretrovirals (ARVs) which work by stopping the virus replicating in the body. A combination of ARVs is used because HIV can quickly adapt and become resistant to one single ARV.

Combination therapy is the term for using three or more drugs to treat HIV. It is also known as highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). Combination therapy slows the progression of the condition and can prolong life.

The combination of medicines that suits one person may not be suitable for another, so the medicine you take will be individual to you.

Once HIV treatment is started, you will probably need to take the medication for the rest of your life. HIV treatment only works if you take your medication regularly every day.

HIV treatment can have side effects including:

  • nausea
  • diarrhoea
  • skin rashes
  • sleep problems

The HIV Team will review your treatment on an ongoing basis.

Your health

You will need to develop a daily routine to fit your treatment plan around your lifestyle. The staff at your clinic can give you advice and support.

Self care is an important part of living with HIV. It means that you take responsibility for your own health and well-being, with support from the people involved in your care.

Self care includes the things you do each day to improve your general health and reduce your risk of falling ill including exercising regularly, eating a healthy, balance diet and stopping smoking if you smoke.

Telling people about your HIV

If you have HIV, it is important that your current sexual partner and any sexual partners you’ve had since being exposed to infection are tested for HIV. The HIV team will discuss your concerns and be able to advise you about who should be contacted and the best way to contact them, or they may be able to contact them on your behalf.

They will also be able to advise you how you can reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to someone else.

The HIV Team will also be able to advise you about disclosing your HIV status.

More useful links

Share this page

What do you want to do?
What is your question about?
Do you want a reply?
Your email address
To reply to you, we need your email address
Your feedback

We will not reply to your feedback.  Don't include any personal or financial information, for example National Insurance, credit card numbers, or phone numbers.

This feedback form is for issues with the nidirect website only.

You can use it to report a problem or suggest an improvement to a webpage.

If you have a question about a government service or policy, you should contact the relevant government organisation directly as we don’t have access to information about you held by government departments.

You must be aged 13 years or older - if you’re younger, ask someone with parental responsibility to send the feedback for you.

The nidirect privacy notice applies to any information you send on this feedback form.

Don't include any personal or financial information, for example National Insurance, credit card numbers, or phone numbers.

Plain text only, 750 characters maximum.
Plain text only, 750 characters maximum.

What to do next

Comments or queries about angling can be emailed to anglingcorrespondence@daera-ni.gov.uk 

What to do next

If you have a comment or query about benefits, you will need to contact the government department or agency which handles that benefit.  Contacts for common benefits are listed below.

Carer's Allowance

Call 0800 587 0912
Email 
dcs.incomingpostteamdhc2@nissa.gsi.gov.uk

Discretionary support / Short-term benefit advance

Call 0800 587 2750 
Email 
customerservice.unit@communities-ni.gov.uk

Disability Living Allowance

Call 0800 587 0912 
Email dcs.incomingpostteamdhc2@nissa.gsi.gov.uk

Employment and Support Allowance

Call 0800 587 1377

Jobseeker’s Allowance

Contact your local Jobs & Benefits office

Personal Independence Payment

Call 0800 587 0932

If your query is about another benefit, select ‘Other’ from the drop-down menu above.

What to do next

Comments or queries about the Blue Badge scheme can be emailed to bluebadges@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk or you can also call 0300 200 7818.

What to do next

For queries or advice about careers, contact the Careers Service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about Child Maintenance, contact the Child Maintenance Service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about claiming compensation due to a road problem, contact DFI Roads claim unit.

What to do next

For queries or advice about criminal record checks, email ani@accessni.gov.uk

What to do next

Application and payment queries can be emailed to ema_ni@slc.co.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about employment rights, contact the Labour Relations Agency.

What to do next

For queries or advice about birth, death, marriage and civil partnership certificates and research, contact the General Register Office Northern Ireland (GRONI) by email gro_nisra@finance-ni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries about:

If your query is about another topic, select ‘Other’ from the drop-down menu above.

What to do next

For queries or advice about passports, contact HM Passport Office.

What to do next

For queries or advice about Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs), including parking tickets and bus lane PCNs, email dcu@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about pensions, contact the Northern Ireland Pension Centre.

What to do next

If you wish to report a problem with a road or street you can do so online in this section.

If you wish to check on a problem or fault you have already reported, contact DfI Roads.

What to do next

For queries or advice about historical, social or cultural records relating to Northern Ireland, use the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) enquiry service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about rates, email LPSCustomerTeam@lpsni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about  60+ and Senior Citizen SmartPasses (which can be used to get concessionary travel on public transport), contact Smartpass - Translink.