HIV treatment and care
You should have access to specialist medical care for HIV. In the UK, HIV treatment is free, regardless of your financial situation or immigration status. The health adviser, doctor or nurse who gave you your test result should have made a follow-up appointment for you to see a specialist HIV doctor. If this wasn’t arranged, or if you missed this appointment, you need to make sure that you are registered with an HIV clinic as soon as possible – contact the clinic or doctor who conducted your test to do this, or you can choose a clinic and contact it directly. HIV clinics are listed in our online services database, the e-atlas. You can read more about HIV clinics in the section calledGetting HIV treatment and care.
If you are well at the time of your HIV diagnosis, and tests show that your immune system is strong, you’ll probably need to go to the clinic for a check-up every three to six months. At your appointments with your doctor you’ll have an opportunity to discuss your health and ask questions, and you will have some blood tests to monitor your health. It is really important that you go to your clinic for these regular check-ups, even if you are feeling well.
There are two key blood tests used to assess the impact HIV is having on your immune system. These are called CD4 cell counts and viral load tests.
A CD4 cell count gives a rough idea of how healthy your immune system is, and the viral load test gives an indication of how active HIV is in your body. The more active HIV is, the lower your CD4 cell count becomes, and the greater your risk of becoming unwell because of HIV. Find out more about these tests in the sectionKey tests to monitor HIV.
Your clinic will look at the results of these tests each time you have them done. The results will be an important part of information you and your doctor look at when making decisions about when to start HIV treatment.