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Myths & concerns about HIV testing

If you are thinking of having a HIV test you may be worried about one or more of the following:

Will having an HIV test affect my ability to get a mortgage?
Most mortgages these days are based on a repayment system that does not require life insurance or any other form of insurance policy. Your mortgage provider may try to sell you life insurance but this is not mandatory.

Will having an HIV test affect my ability to obtain life insurance?
All companies providing life insurance routinely ask if you are HIV positive or waiting for the result of a HIV test. Insurance companies will not ask you about negative tests. So having a routine HIV test with a negative result will not affect applications for life or health insurance.

If you are HIV positive you will normally be declined cover. However if you had a policy prior to your diagnosis and all the information you provided at the time was accurate then your policy may be continued. You will need to discuss this with your insurer.

Specialist travel insurance policies for HIV positive people are available from Freedom Travel.  http://www.freedominsure.co.uk/

Will a HIV positive diagnosis affect my ability to get a job?
A HIV positive diagnosis will only prevent someone working as a surgeon doing certain types of invasive procedures as set out by the GMC. Healthcare workers should inform their occupational health service regarding their HIV status.  There are detailed guidelines regarding employment and HIV – but most nurses can carry on normally.

Assuming you are otherwise fit and well then a HIV diagnosis will not prevent you from undertaking any other type of employment.  It may be better for you if your occupational health service or employer is aware of your diagnosis so you can attend clinic appointments etc. but it is not mandatory to inform them.

If I have HIV I will die anyway so what’s the point?
Current treatments are very effective and so long as you start treatment early enough your life expectancy will be practically the same as someone without HIV.

Everyone will know – I couldn’t cope with that!
The only people who will know are the ones you tell. Your diagnosis is confidential within the Wolverton or other sexual health/GUM clinic. There may be advantages in your GP knowing – but this is always discussed with you personally by the HIV specialist. Your sexual partner also needs to know – but the HIV team will be able to help you regarding disclosure.

I couldn’t cope with knowing!
Many people feel this way about any serious condition. But now we have effective treatment most people feel differently about this. However for many societies and cultures it is the stigma of the condition that may be more upsetting.  We can provide you with help and support regarding this. There are also many voluntary organisations that provide help tailored to meet the needs of certain ethnic or social groups.

My partner would leave me!
This can be a serious concern for women dependant on their husbands particularly if there are children involved.  There may also be a risk of physical violence. You should discuss these concerns with the doctor in the clinic.  It is better in the long term to test and know your status so you can obtain treatment if you need it.  We will provide help and support – we can refer you to a specialist social worker and if necessary can arrange admission to a women’s refuge for safety.

I don’t want my GP to know – my friend works in reception!
We will not automatically inform your GP – this is discussed personally with you. In this situation it may be better to discuss your HIV diagnosis personally with your GP as there are usually systems for maintaining your confidentiality within your GP practice.  Alternatively you may wish to register with another GP practice – we could help you find another GP

I would lose my job!
The Disability Discrimination Act means that an employer cannot discriminate on the basis of your HIV status. Unless you work as a surgeon undertaking certain ‘at risk’ procedures you can continue in your normal employment if you are otherwise fit. Your employer does not need to know your HIV status. However many people may find it easier to inform their employer or occupational health service in case they need time off for appointments etc.  Occupational health services also have a duty of confidentiality with respect to the employee (i.e. cannot tell the employer without the employee’s permission).

If I test positive do I have to test my children?
Yes all women with children are advised to have their children tested. This is because we cannot tell how long someone has had HIV so previous children could have been infected. We routinely test all children up to the age of 16 years.  Children who are HIV positive can remain well up to this age so it is impossible to determine a child’s HIV status without testing. This is always discussed fully with you by the HIV specialist. We can arrange testing through the paediatric service at Kingston Hospital with a specialist paediatrician. For most women this is a particularly emotionally difficult and worrying thing to undertake. We provide as much help and support to you and your partner as we can during this process.  If a child is found to be HIV positive we arrange a referral to the specialist HIV services at St George’s Hospital.