Women

Living with HIV:

If you are a woman living with HIV we are here to help. We know that as women living with HIV we face unique challenges, but we are also incredibly resilient and resourceful. Whether you need support around your diagnosis, dating and relationships, how to maintain a good physical and mental health, pleasurable and safer sex, pregnancy or contraception, or if you want to know about your rights as a woman living with HIV: we can help! We are women living with HIV! We have been through all of those issues, and more, ourselves!

Taking Care of Me

Calendar of Events

 

Information for Women Living with HIV

Read our latest information and update for women living with HIV here:

  • HIV and the Menopause - Shema Tariq, a consultant in HIV at Mortimer Market Centre (London) and an HIV researcher at UCL, talks to Positively UK about the menopause, HIV and the PRIME study.

And read all our old posts here…

Our Services

Recently Diagnosed?

We know that being diagnosed with HIV can be a worrying and confusing time. With our programme of workshops, one to one support and groups, help is never far away

Our recently diagnosed weekend workshops are here to help you gain a better understanding of HIV, talk about treatment options and discuss living with HIV as part of everyday life. You’ll also meet other people in a similar position, facing the same kind of concerns. Dates and further information can be found here

1-to-1 Peer Support

Using our network of trained peer mentors, we’ll match you with someone who has been through similar issues as you and can give you the individual support you need

Whether you need a one off session or something ongoing, we can tailor support that’s right for you. All our peer mentors are living with HIV themselves and are trained to provide a comprehensive package of emotional and practical support around all aspects of living with HIV. For more information please email info@positivelyuk.org.

Women’s Room

Living with HIV isn’t something you have to deal with on your own. Our Women’s Room group for women living with HIV meets the second Wednesday of every month.

Facilitated by staff and mentors, the group provides a safe, friendly and welcoming space for you to get peer support, build life skills, have fun and socialise. Each month focusses on a different theme and we lay on a free lunch! Details of upcoming events can be found on the Calendar of Events.

Support for parents affected by HIV

Pregnancy & Child Birth

HIV Positive and Pregnant? Or considering pregnancy?

Whether you were diagnosed while pregnant, are having your first child since your diagnosis, living with HIV and planning to get pregnant or a new mum, we can provide emotional and practical support including information about reducing the risk of onward transmission and treatment options.

Find out more

Advice on Benefits and Welfare

If you are experiencing financial difficulties or need support around welfare, our benefits advisor can help

Our benefits advisor can check your benefit entitlements, help you to complete the necessary forms, advocate with the Department of Work and Pensions and your local council and attend medical assessments with you. To find out more email Tomasz on tomaszm@positivelyuk.org or call him on 020 7713 0444

Advice in Clinic

If you want to meet one of our staff or mentors in your hospital or health clinic, we provide peer support in several London clinics

Homerton Hospital – Every Monday

Royal Free Hospital – Every Monday

St Mary’s Hospital – Every Tuesday

Ealing Hospital – 1st Tuesday of the month

Royal London Hospital– Every Tuesday

Northwick Park Hospital– Every Thursday

Newham Hospital– 1st & 3rd Friday of each month

Chelsea & Westminster – Every Thursday

Charing Cross hospital– Alternate Wednesdays

 

Want to become a peer mentor?

If you would like to develop new skills and use your own experience to support people living with HIV why don’t you consider training to become a peer mentor? For more details contact Garry Brough on 020 7713 0444 or email gbrough@positivelyuk.org. For information about other volunteering opportunities with us please email info@positivelyuk.org.

Are you a woman living with HIV? Want more information or to talk to someone? Contact our Women’s Project Coordinator Helen on 020 7713 0444 or email her on hrogers@positivelyuk.org

Women PrEPare

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, everyone should enjoy a sex life regardless of their HIV status.

When newly diagnosed you may reject sex or worry about passing the virus on. An HIV diagnosis can impact on sex life in different ways. Some people after a new diagnosis may feel ‘dirty’ having contracted a sexually transmitted virus. Some may experience an increase in their sexual desire, because they feel it is life affirming, and sex makes them feel loved and connect to others. All these reactions are part of dealing with a new diagnosis and are normal.

Once you have come to terms with your diagnosis you will probably want to have sex again.

Remember HIV is not a barrier to relationships or sex and many positive people enjoy healthy sexual and intimate relationships.

New research, like the Partner Study, has shown that when you are on ARV treatment, your Viral Load is Undetectable (HIV present in your blood), and you are having regular medical care and check-ups, you will not pass HIV to your partner.

If you are not yet ready to tell your partner about your status it is still a good idea to use a condom (some men, straight and gay, prefer femidoms). Even if you have been with your partner for a long time before your diagnosis, you cannot assume that your partner is positive just because you are. Therefore using condoms can help you being extra safe, especially if you have not started HIV treatment, and your Viral Load is still high. It is important to practice sex with condoms for you as well, as you don’t want to get any Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI).

Using condoms might be difficult if there is pressure from partners not to use condoms, especially if they have not previously been used, or for cultural and religious reasons.

Negotiating condoms can be difficult for many women. If you want to use condoms, but don’t feel able to negotiate them, then it’s a good idea to seek personal advice on how to be assertive about this.

If you want more information or advice on sex and HIV from somebody who has faced similar experiences you can talk to one of our advisers who are women living with HIV.
 

Many people living with HIV are in a relationship with somebody else who is also HIV positive. Being in a relationship with somebody else who is also HIV positive can be reassuring as we don’t have to worry about transmitting HIV to our partners.

However, you may want to consider using condoms as there is a chance you or your partner (positive or not) could transmit other infections such as:

  • Hepatitis
  • Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) including Chlamydia, Gonorrhoea, Syphilis etc

There is also a small risk of reinfection with HIV.

Knowing about reinfection is important. If either partner has drug resistance or a different type of resistance this can be transmitted.

How often reinfection occurs is not known. The risk is probably at least as low as catching HIV the first time. This will be higher if viral load is detectable and dramatically less for someone on effective treatment.

The implications for your health if reinfection occurs will depend on how serious the resistance is.
We mainly know about reinfection because of cases where the new infection has caused treatment to fail.
This means knowing about both your and your partners’ treatment history.

If neither of you have resistance, or if you both have the same resistance, then there is unlikely to be a problem from not using condoms (other than STIs or unwanted pregnancy).

But if one of you has resistance, especially with a detectable viral load, then reinfection would stop the chance to use these drugs.

 

Telling your partner that you are living with HIV is a personal decision. There are not any laws or any clinical guideline that says you should talk about your HIV status with a partner.

When you start seeing a new partner, your HIV status will inevitably be at the back of your mind. Do you tell them your status soon after you have met? Do you tell them once it seems things are becoming serious and moving to a sexual level? Or do you wait until the relationship is blossoming and you feel that a serious commitment may be on the horizon? Should you not tell them at all?

Only you can decide the best time to tell when in a relationship, but it certainly helps if your new partner has got to know you and understands you as an individual with your own qualities. This should mean that when you tell them your status, they will see you as more than a woman living with HIV. It also helps that you are comfortable with your own status. Your attitude when you tell them could influence their reaction.

When you have chosen to tell your partner, a whole set of issues may arise. If you have known the person for a while, he or she may want to know why you didn’t tell them earlier – in which case you may need to explain that it was important for you to get to know them and trust them before sharing such sensitive information. If you are newly diagnosed it may be helpful to explain that you needed to become comfortable with your status yourself and be fully informed before talking to them. You may need to discuss your partner taking an HIV test – something which they may be resistant to doing.

However, current laws in the UK, even if they do not directly criminalise not telling your partner about HIV, still carry a risk of prosecution, thus making it difficult for deciding whether or not to tell to be solely a personal choice. When it comes to disclosing to your partner, you may want to consider that:

  • If you don’t tell and if you have sex without a condom
  • If the person you are with becomes HIV positive, if they decide to prosecute
  • You could be in difficulty and a court case could be brought against you
  • For more information on HIV and the law please see the HIV Justice Networ and NAT’s Guide on prosecutions for HIV transmission for people living with HIV.

If you want to talk with another woman living with HIV through the pros and cons of telling your partner and how to do it, contact Positively UK on 020 7713 0444 or email hrogers@positivelyuk.org
 

Some people living with HIV believe that a partner with HIV is the perfect solution. Relationships should be based on more than a common HIV status. No relationship will ever work when it is based on one shared interest or quality alone. Many people living with HIV are in happy, loving relationships where the partner is not HIV positive.
 

Positively UK supports women with HIV in all their diversity. We support and promote the health and rights of all who self-identify as women regardless of sexuality or gender identity. We are aware that trans women are especially vulnerable to HIV and often experience major difficulties in accessing the treatment care and support they have a right to.

If you are a lesbian, bisexual, queer or trans woman living with HIV and you would like to talk to one of our expert women advisers please contact 020 7713 0444 or email Silvia spetretti@positivelyuk.org
 

Family members can be a great source of support. However when it comes to telling your family you have to make sure that you are ready for the reaction of your family members. Some might give you the support you need, but some may find it difficult and may need a lot of support themselves, and some might even reject you.

Sometimes it is better to first come to terms with your diagnosis and gather information about HIV so that when you disclose to your parents or children or friends you will be able to support them and assure them that you will be alright. Again your attitude when you tell them could also influence their reaction.

If you have children and want support with telling them, Positively UK can support you around this issue. We will also give continued support to your child after the disclosure whether you are telling your child you are positive or telling them they are positive or both.

You can find more useful information about telling someone you have HIV here, and about telling your child you have HIV here.
 

Some treatments have side effects. This can vary from individual to individual. Side-effects can be a problem when starting a new course of treatments, but they should subside within a few weeks. You may need to make some small changes to manage the side-effects, but you should not have to completely change your lifestyle in order to take your medication.

If you continue to have problems with side-effects and your medications, speak to your doctor about how the regimen can be changed to suit you. Similarly, if you are on treatment regimen that you find impossible to adhere to don’t be afraid to tell your doctor.

If you want to talk to someone about this you can speak to one of our team.

You can also get more information online from treatment support agencies such as i-Base and NAM.
 

Since 2012 all HIV treatments are free for all regardless of where you live or your immigration status.

You may however have to pay for non-HIV medications prescribed by your GP.
 

Thanks to effective HIV treatment and access to good quality care and support women with HIV are living long lives, getting older, and reaching the menopause, when menstruation stops. We need more research on women living with HIV and the menopause, as it seems that they tend to experience symptoms of the menopause more intensely and for a longer period of time.

Common symptoms of the menopause may include:

  • Hot flushes
  • Disturbed sleep /Insomnia
  • Low moods / depression
  • Vaginal dryness

A healthy lifestyle can really improve those symptoms and women going through the menopause will especially benefit from:

  • Exercising regularly
  • Avoiding drinking excessive alcohol
  • Stop smoking
  • Eating healthy, nutritious and enjoyable food
  •  

Older people living with HIV and especially women who have gone through the menopause are at higher risk of developing osteoporosis, a condition that weakens your bones and makes you more prone to fractures.

Blood tests like calcium and Vitamin D levels can tell you about the health of your bones. After the menopause It is also recommended that you have regular DEXA scans a special X Ray used to check mineral density in your bones. All those tests can be done by your HIV clinic during your regular checks, and also by your GP. If tests detect low levels, Vitamin D and calcium supplements can be prescribed. Always take control and talk to your doctor if you are worried about your health.

If you have concerns about the menopause and ageing and HIV and would like to talk to one of our advisers, please contact Positively UK on 020 7713 0444 or email Helen hrogers@positivelyuk.org.
 

Women Know Best

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