Forth Valley Drug Users Warned of HIV Risk

People in Forth Valley who have injected drugs are being urged to get tested for HIV, following the most serious HIV outbreak in Glasgow for more than a decade.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has seen the number of new cases through injecting drug use more than quadruple. The normal average is 10 new cases a year but in 2015 that figure soared to 44 new cases.

NHS Forth Valley HIV Consultant Dr Kirsty Abu-Rajab said: “The recent Glasgow outbreak reminds us that HIV has not gone away and is still a very real risk for people who inject drugs and share equipment. The key message is to get tested for HIV if you have ever injected drugs.

“The best way to avoid transmission of HIV and other blood borne viruses such as Hepatitis C is to stop injecting drugs. However, if an individual continues to inject it is vital they use new equipment every time and never share needles or any other equipment. It is also important to use a condom for sex and get tested regularly for all blood-borne viruses.”

Testing is easy and can be done at GP surgeries, Signpost Recovery, Community Alcohol and Drug Services and the Forth Valley Sexual Health Service.

Injecting equipment is available from a number of community pharmacies across Forth Valley.  Condoms are available to residents in Forth Valley from www.freecondomscentral.co.uk. Further information is available from www.centralsexualhealth.org or by calling the Forth Valley Sexual Health Advice line on 01786 433697 or 01324 613944.

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (more commonly known as HIV) is a blood borne virus which attacks the immune system and weakens the body’s ability to fight infection and disease. When someone first acquires HIV they may have a flu-like illness for 2-6 weeks after exposure, this is called a seroconversion illness. When they have recovered from this they may have no or minimal symptoms for several years, however their immune system is being progressively damaged throughout this time and the infection may also be transmitted. There is no cure for HIV, but very effective treatment is now available. With early diagnosis and treatment a person with HIV can live a healthy life and enjoy a similar life expectancy to the rest of the population. Early treatment also reduces the risk of onward transmission.

 Notes:

HIV is found in body fluids: blood, semen, vaginal and anal fluids and breast milk.

How is HIV transmitted?

HIV is a virus and has to get into your bloodstream to cause infection. HIV is most commonly transmitted by:

  • Vaginal or anal sex without using a condom
  • Sharing needles and syringes
  • Sharing water, spoons, filters and other paraphernalia used to inject drugs
  • From a HIV positive mother to her child during pregnancy, birth or by breast feeding
  • From receiving contaminated blood/blood products

You cannot catch HIV from:

  • Sweat, urine, sneezing or coughing
  • Social contact such as sharing food, sharing cooking or eating utensils, kissing, shaking hands, or hugging, massage, or using the same toilet.
  • Being in the same place as someone with HIV, or by sharing household items

What do HIV tests involve?

Pre-test counselling is no longer required. All that is needed is a discussion to check people understand what they are being tested for, explain when results will be available and provide details of how they can find out the results of any tests. Testing is available in a range of healthcare settings across Scotland and details are available on the HIV Scotland website: www.hivscotland.com