What It’s Like Living As a HIV-Positive Teen


When she was an infant, Ashley Rose Murphy was extremely sick. Murphy was born with HIV, which she contracted from her late birth mother. After spending over three months in a coma, she was placed into palliative care, taken in by adoptive parents, and given just weeks to live. Over 18 years later, the teen’s very much alive—and making her voice heard as a fierce advocate for HIV awareness.

Article via Self.

SELF is a wellness resource and community for all aspects of a person’s life. They recognise that wellness is as much about self-expression and self-compassion as it is about workout classes and healthy eating; and that every person’s individual goals for wellness are different.  

“I found out I was HIV positive when I was 7 years old,” Murphy tells SELF. “When my parents told me, they sat me down and they said, ‘Ashley, the reason why you take all of these medications and why you go to all these doctor appointments is because you have a virus called HIV. At the time I didn’t understand what that meant at all, I was in grade two. I was just very oblivious and was like, ‘OK, so what’s for dinner?’” Her parents and doctors told her she shouldn’t tell anybody, but Murphy didn’t understand why. “I asked, ‘Why do I need to keep it a secret? I didn’t do anything wrong.’” Since then, Murphy has spoken to thousands of people, hoping to help educate others and reduce the stigma around HIV.

Murphy says the widespread fear of HIV stems from a lack of knowledge, which is why she speaks so openly about it. She speaks at school and conferences to educate both kids and adults about the virus so they understand what it is and what it’s like to live with it.

She started speaking at medical conferences in Canada (her home country) when she was 10 along with other kids she had grown up with in the medical system in Toronto. She attended a support group for children with HIV, and they occasionally went to speak with groups of medical professionals. “The other kids wouldn’t speak if there was media,” Murphy recalls, “but I didn’t really care.” Her mother tells SELF it was hard at first to see her daughter exposed like that, but Ashley was always comfortable. “I’ve always loved performing and singing, so being in front of people doesn’t scare me at all,” Murphy says.

When she got to high school, the speeches became a little more nerve wracking. When Murphy was in 10th grade, she spoke in front of her biggest audience of 16,5000 in Ottawa, Canada, for an event series called We Day. “Even though I had been out for so long, this was going to be my biggest crowd yet and my school was live steaming it in the lobby,” Murphy explains. “A lot of kids at my school knew, but mostly it was the kids in my grade who had gone to my elementary school, less than 200 people.” After this, her entire high school of 700-or-so kids would know she was HIV positive.

“As I started progressing in high school, I told more people,” she says, but in the beginning, she kept kind of quiet, unsure of how high school kids would react. “I didn’t know if they were going to be mean,” Murphy says. As she made more connections and her friendships developed, she started to tell people. “I’d say, ‘I have something to tell you, I’m HIV positive, I was born with it, if you have any questions let me know.’ And everyone was very positive toward it,” Murphy says.

That doesn’t mean she’s never experienced discrimination. Murphy says most of it has come from adults, not her peers. “One of my first tastes of stigma was when Children’s Aid Society was looking for a family to take me,” Murphy recalls (she doesn’t remember it herself, but was told the story when she was older). “I was placed with a woman before I started getting really sick. She didn’t know I had HIV, but when Children’s Aid called her and asked if she would take me back and they told her about my status, she refused to.” An incident that she remembers clearly happened when she was 7 and a classmate’s mother was uncomfortable with her being at a sleepover party. She also had a teacher her senior year of high school who thought she would transmit the virus from sharing a guitar with other students (because her skin cells would rub off onto the strings). In the same class, a broken guitar string scraped her finger and drew a little blood, leading to a whole fiasco where the department of public health was called—they “basically laughed,” Murphy’s mother tells SELF. But Murphy says in the end, a big deal was made out of nothing, and she felt very uncomfortable.

Last year, she went to speak to her brother’s kindergarten class about HIV/AIDS, per the teacher’s request. “I talked to the first group of kids and then after I was done speaking, I got confronted by the principal and he said, ‘Can you not use the word HIV in your next presentation?’ That really hurt,” Murphy says. “It’s crazy because that’s discrimination right there. I was asked to speak at the school, and here I am facing it.” It’s kind of tough to raise awareness and have an honest conversation about something like HIV when you’re not allowed to even say the word.

Murphy says she’s been lucky and most people have been very accepting, but that many of the HIV-positive young people she’s met through support groups and programs for kids with HIV have been bullied so much they’ve needed to switch schools. The reactions can be seen as an unfortunate side effect of the progress made in HIV treatment and prevention. “Forty years ago this was a huge topic everyone was talking about, but today no one really talks about AIDS or HIV,” says Steven Izen, founder and CEO of Lokai, a charitable retailer. “Not many people are talking about it now.” Among Lokai’s partnerships is one with (RED), where proceeds from their sale of limited edition bracelets goes to providing life-saving AIDS medication to communities in Sub-Saharan Africa. Murphy teamed up with Lokai to help spread awareness and clear up misconceptions about HIV/AIDS as part of the bracelet’s launch.

Murphy’s infection is controlled by medication, which she’s been on all her life. “Right now my viral load is undetectable, meaning the number is under 50, which means my illness is very controlled,” Murphy says. “It’s not in my blood, only in my lymph nodes and brain.” The virus gives her a weakened immune system, so she gets sick more often, and it takes her longer to recover than it would for a healthy person.

The medication that controls the virus also comes with side effects that have to be managed, like hair thinning and osteoporosis. Some people also experience liver problems, but Murphy’s so far has been functioning well despite the stress. Generally, Murphy feels well—unless she forgets to take her medication before bed and has to take it in the morning. Her mother says if this happens, she can barely function. “She has to hold onto the walls or a support person to walk, has difficulty speaking or thinking clearly, and is weepy.” It’s only happened twice, though. She’ll have to continue on medication to keep the virus in check—there is no cure for HIV—but it means she can live a mostly normal life (she just has to opt for water at college parties, since she can’t drink on her meds).

Murphy doesn’t announce her HIV status to the grocery store cashier or to new acquaintances out of the blue like she did as a kid, but she does stand in front of crowds and openly talk about having HIV. Her status is right there in her social media bios. She’s upfront and honest about it with friends and classmates at York University in Toronto, where she studies theater. “It’s not really a secret. Pretty much with anyone I meet I’m really open about it now,” she says. Murphy credits growing up in a family of 10 kids, all with differing special needs, and extremely supportive parents, for how she’s been able to live without shame or fear. “They’ve always taught us the importance of being yourself and loving yourself and being comfortable with who you are and to not be ashamed. And so I kind of took their sayings and ran with it.”

She hopes that by using her voice and living as an example, she can help the world be a more understanding place for those who are afraid to speak about having HIV, so they can let go of the shame and feel comfortable in their own skin.

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‘Tis The Season For Overindulgence ♫

Boxing Day Buffet Lunch Christmas Tree and Log Fir

Many people overdo it at Christmas, celebrating with friends and family, non-stop eating, drinking and late nights can leave us feeling tired, sluggish and quite often, a little poorly if we’ve eaten or drunk too much.  A lot of people with HIV generally have a healthy diet and lifestyle, and may only overindulge once or twice a year, if that’s you, then you’ll have no problems going back to eating sensibly after the holiday season, festive excesses aren’t likely to have a long-term, damaging effect on your health or your weight.  However, the short term strain that too much rich food and alcohol puts on your body can still leave you feeling bloated and out of sorts, when all you need is your body to get back to normal.

An average person can consume as much as 7,000 calories on Christmas Day, (that’s three and a half times the recommended daily intake for a woman.)  As well as dehydrating us and putting a strain on our liver, excessive consumption of alcohol can also make us feel unwell, and ill-equipped to handle a detox correctly.

When the festivities are finally over, there are a few sensible, gimmick-free steps that you can take to help you and your body get back on the road to feeling better.

Get Moving

It’s a cliché, but exercise really is the best way to make your body and metabolism work together so it can make use of the nutrition it’s received over the past few days.  A 30 minute walk is good for your heart, lungs, muscles and bones, as well as improving your mood and giving you a sense of wellbeing.  So instead of watching reruns of Christmas TV, get yourself off the sofa and go out for a stroll!

Be kind to your body

If you’ve over-indulged in rich, fatty, sugary foods with alcohol, if your inclined, your body needs time to recuperate.  You should try to avoid red meats, dairy products and processed foods and opt for lots of fruit and vegetables and wholegrain foods instead.  And one of the best things to drink is water (no surprise there), but did you know that the additional salt and alcohol we consume dehydrates the body, so it’s best to re-hydrate.  If you can’t manage full glasses, frequently just try a glass of water with your cup of tea, coffee or soft drink.  Combined with exercise, you’ll start to feel the benefits almost immediately!

Don’t Forget Protein!

Proteins are extremely important for your diet as they are the building blocks of your cells, muscles, organs, and more importantly, your immune system!  If your body doesn’t get the protein it needs from food, it will start using the protein it has stored up which can result in a weakening of your immune system.  A good rule of thumb for a HIV positive person is 100 to 150 grams of protein per day for men, and 80 to 100 grams of protein per day for women.

Energy & Fat (yes, fat)!

You can rebuild your energy by eating complex carbohydrates, that’s food items such as grains and beans, rice and pasta.  While eating complex carbohydrates, try to focus on foods such as white bread, pasta and potatoes.  These carbohydrates are richer in nutrients and the body absorbs them slower, helping to sustain you while you are between meals.

While carbohydrates help you get energy, fat is what helps the body store energy for later use.  For HIV positive people, doctors recommend a fat intake of less than 30 percent of your daily caloric intake.  Also make sure you are getting the appropriate amounts of fat, sometimes, people with HIV experience an increase in cholesterol because of interactions with medications so it’s important to watch your fat consumption. It is recommended that of that 30 percent, 7 percent be saturated fat from foods like whole milk, butter and fatty meats. The rest of the fat should come from nuts, fish, seeds, canola oil and soy.

If you’d like to know more about HIV and Nutrition, visit Avert, who have comprehensive information and advice on diet, supplements and nutrition.

You can also visit Web MD, National AIDS Trust or Positive Nation for some helpful nutrition information or learn about about eating a balanced diet on the NHS Choices website at: www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Goodfood/Pages/the-eatwell-guide.aspx.

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Healthcare Christmas Opening Times throughout Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland


At the time of year when the entire health system comes under increased pressure, people in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland are being reminded to choose the right health service if they or a member of their family begin to feel unwell this winter.

All GP practices across Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland will be open until Friday 23rd December. Practices will re-open on the 28th December with normal service as well as 29th and 30th December, between Christmas and New Year. Practices will re- open again on Tuesday January 2, 2017. Where some practices in the city would normally close at lunch time on the Thursday before Christmas, in this case 22nd December, practices will be remaining open for the full duration of the day to provide more appointments to patients before Christmas.

In addition the following practices in the city will be opening on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve for their own patients only:

GP Practice Date Times
Parker Drive

Manor Medical Centre

Saturday 24 December

Saturday 31 December

8.00am – 1.00pm

8.00am – 1.00pm

Merridale Medical Centre Saturday 24 December

Saturday 31 December

8.30am – 12.30pm
The Practice, Beaumont Leys Saturday 24 December

Saturday 31 December

8.00am – 10.00am

Healthcare Hubs Over Christmas

Patients can get an appointment with a GP or an advanced nurse practitioner at one of the hubs everyday over the holiday period, including Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day.

Patients that are registered with any Leicester City GP practice can use the Westcotes hub from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week, or the Belgrave and Saffron hubs, which open weekdays 6.30pm to 10pm and on weekends and bank holidays 12 noon to 8pm.

Healthcare Hub Address
Westcotes Medical Practice Westcotes Health Centre,
Fosse Road South, Leicester, LE3 0LP.
Brandon Street Surgery Belgrave Health Centre,
52 Brandon Street, Leicester, LE4 6AW.
Saffron Surgery 612 Saffron Lane, Leicester, LE2 6TD.

Appointments can be made by calling 0116 366 0560 or NHS 111 from 8am to 10pm, 7 days a week. It is the same number for all the hubs, which are located in three areas of the city. More information on the hub opening times can be found here: https://www.leicestercityccg.nhs.uk/find-a-service/healthcare-hubs/.

The three CCGs across Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland want to ensure that people who need healthcare over the Christmas and New Year holidays are able to find the right service for their needs.

Anyone who needs immediate medical attention should call NHS 111, unless it is a life threatening emergency. Trained call handlers will assess any symptoms and direct patients to the most appropriate source of care.

Patients can also visit walk-in and urgent care centres across the city and county which offer quick, professional healthcare and can treat minor burns, cuts and wounds, infections and rashes, as well as stomach ache, vomiting and diarrhoea.

Merlyn Vaz Walk in Centre
Spinney Hill Road
Tel: 0116 242 9450
Open: Daily 8am – 8pm

Leicester Urgent Care Centre
Balmoral Building
Infirmary Close
Tel: via the NHS 111 service
Open: 24 hours a day, every day

Urgent Care Centre Loughborough
Loughborough Hospital
Urgent Care Centre
Hospital Way
LE11 5JY
Tel: 01509 568800
Open: 24 hours a day, 365 days a year

Market Harborough District Hospital
58 Coventry Road
Market Harborough
LE16 9DD
Open Monday to Friday 8.30am to 9pm
Saturday and Sunday 9am to 7pm
Bank holidays 9am to 7pm

Melton Mowbray Hospital
Thorpe Road
Melton Mowbray, LE13 1SJ
Open Monday to Friday 5pm to 9pm
Saturday and Sunday 9am to 7pm
Bank holidays 9am to 7pm

Oadby Urgent Care Centre
18 The Parade
Oadby, LE2 5BJ
Open 8am to 9pm
Saturday and Sunday 8am to 8pm
Bank holidays 8am to 8pm 

Rutland Memorial Hospital
Cold Overton Road
Rutland, LE15 6NT
Open Monday to Friday 8.30am to 9pm
Saturday and Sunday 9am to 7pm
Open bank holidays 9am to 7pm

Professor Azhar Farooqi, a GP and Chair of Leicester City Clinical Commissioning Group speaking on behalf of the three CCGs, said:  “There are many health services available across the city and county. If you feel unwell but not sure which health service to use, call NHS111 whose trained call handlers can give you the right advice.

“Don’t forget your local pharmacy if you have a minor illness over the holidays. They can provide health advice and over the counter medicines conveniently in everyone’s local community.

“It is also important to remember that if you are very poorly, particularly if you are older or have a long term health condition, not to delay seeking treatment or advice. Often at this time of year people don’t want to bother busy services, but we would rather you did seek help to avoid your condition becoming very serious and you need to be admitted to hospital.”

Details of local pharmacy opening times over the Christmas and New Year holidays are available at



We are closed throughout Christmas and New Year.  Our office closes this Friday, (23rd December).  We re-open on Tuesday, 3rd January 2017


There are a number of places that you can turn to for HIV/AIDS related help and advice.  The following web page lists services and support available for HIV, AIDS and sexual health in Leicester and Leicestershire  http://www.leicestersexualhealth.nhs.uk/getting-tested-and-clinics/clinics/

PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis)

PEP is a course of HIV medication which you can take if you have been at risk of HIV infection. The course of HIV medication lasts 28 days and, if you start taking it within 72 hours of putting yourself at risk, it may be able to prevent you from becoming infected with HIV.  Further information on PEP can be found from the following link: http://www.aidsmap.com/Post-exposure-prophylaxis-PEP/page/1044883/

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Merry Christmas! (And our opening times over Christmas and New Year)!

As the Holiday Season is upon us, we find ourselves reflecting on the past year and on those who have helped to shape our organisation, our service users, volunteers and partner agencies.

We value our friendships with you and look forward to working with you in the year to come.

With appreciation to you all, the staff at LASS wish you a very merry Christmas and extend our best wishes for a happy New Year filled with peace and prosperity.

Seasonal opening times

We are closed throughout Christmas and New Year.  Our office closes on Friday, 23rd December.  We re-open on Tuesday, 3rd January 2017


There are a number of places that you can turn to for HIV/AIDS related help and advice.  The following web page lists services and support available for HIV, AIDS and sexual health in Leicester and Leicestershire http://www.leicestersexualhealth.nhs.uk/getting-tested-and-clinics/clinics/

PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis)

PEP is a course of HIV medication which you can take if you have been at risk of HIV infection. The course of HIV medication lasts 28 days and, if you start taking it within 72 hours of putting yourself at risk, it may be able to prevent you from becoming infected with HIV.  Further information on PEP can be found from the following link: http://www.aidsmap.com/Post-exposure-prophylaxis-PEP/page/1044883/

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Prime Minister Theresa May’s message for World Aids Day

As Prime Minister, I am proud to wear a red ribbon on World Aids Day, to show my support for people living with HIV in the UK and all across the world.

I am proud too of the role that the UK has played in driving advances in the treatment and prevention of HIV, including of course through the brilliant care and support of our NHS which makes such a difference in the lives of people living with HIV.

But for all the progress in treatment and prevention, public attitudes have not progressed as far or as fast.

The latest UK HIV Stigma Index found that almost one in five respondents living with HIV in the UK have had suicidal thoughts in the past twelve months.

While around half reported feelings such as shame, guilt and low self-esteem in relation to their HIV status.”

This stigma is an unacceptable stain on our society and we have to wipe it out.

Stigma is not just profoundly wrong. It also prevents many of those affected from accessing the testing, treatment and support that they need.

Today around two in five people are diagnosed late – after the point at which treatment should have begun, with a significant impact on their long-term prognosis.

Tackling stigma is one of the ways that we can change this.

So I am proud to support this year’s campaign. HIV Stigma is not retro, just wrong.

I urge you to join me in taking a stand and leaving this stigma where it belongs: in the past.

World AIDS Day Message from Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS

Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations

Today, we commemorate World AIDS Day—we stand in solidarity with the 78 million people who have become infected with HIV and remember the 35 million who have died from AIDS-related illnesses since the first cases of HIV were reported.

Press Release from UNAIDS

The world has committed to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals. We are seeing that countries are getting on the Fast-Track—more than 18 million people are on life-saving HIV treatment and country after country is on track to virtually eliminate HIV transmission from mother to child.

We are winning against the AIDS epidemic, but we are not seeing progress everywhere. The number of new HIV infections is not declining among adults, with young women particularly at risk of becoming infected with HIV.

We know that for girls in sub-Saharan Africa, the transition to adulthood is a particularly dangerous time. Young women are facing a triple threat: a high risk of HIV infection, low rates of HIV testing and poor adherence to HIV treatment.

Coinfections of people living with HIV, such as tuberculosis (TB), cervical cancer and hepatitis C, are at risk of putting the 2020 target of fewer than 500 000 AIDS-related deaths out of reach. TB caused about a third of AIDS-related deaths in 2015, while women living with HIV are at four to five times greater risk of developing cervical cancer. Taking AIDS out of isolation remains an imperative if the world is to reach the 2020 target.

With access to treatment, people living with HIV are living longer. Investing in treatment is paying off, but people older than 50 who are living with HIV, including people who are on treatment, are at increased risk of developing age-associated noncommunicable diseases, affecting HIV disease progression.

AIDS is not over, but it can be if we tailor the response to individual needs at particular times in life. Whatever our individual situation may be, we all need access to the tools to protect us from HIV and to access antiretroviral medicines should we need them. A life-cycle approach to HIV that finds solutions for everyone at every stage of life can address the complexities of HIV. Risks and challenges change as people go through life, highlighting the need to adapt HIV prevention and treatment strategies from birth to old age.

The success we have achieved so far gives us hope for the future, but as we look ahead we must remember not to be complacent. We cannot stop now. This is the time to move forward together to ensure that all children start their lives free from HIV, that young people and adults grow up and stay free from HIV and that treatment becomes more accessible so that everyone stays AIDS-free.


The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) leads and inspires the world to achieve its shared vision of zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths. UNAIDS unites the efforts of 11 UN organizations—UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP, UNDP, UNFPA, UNODC, UN Women, ILO, UNESCO, WHO and the World Bank—and works closely with global and national partners towards ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals. Learn more at unaids.org and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

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It’s World AIDS Day and Leicester’s HIV Late Diagnosis rate is 13.8% higher than average.

Halve It Leicester

As the world marks World AIDS day, we remind Leicester city MPs, Leicester City Council and local HIV Charities who have signed up to the Halve It campaign that there is still much work to be done.  (The Halve It Campaign aims to halve the number of new late HIV diagnoses by 2020.  Click here to learn more)

Reality Check

We need a reality check, incredible medical progress has been made in the last 20 years and HIV treatment is now very effective.  HIV is a manageable health condition and we can manage it well.  However, treatment for HIV is only available if you are diagnosed.

People whose HIV infection is diagnosed late have a ten-fold increased risk of dying from AIDS related complications within the first year of diagnosis compared to those diagnosed early.  It’s estimated that someone who is diagnosed very late with HIV has a life expectancy at least 10 years shorter than someone who starts treatment earlier.

Undiagnosed HIV has an impact on wider public health. People who don’t know they are HIV positive are at greater risk of passing the virus on to others through unprotected sex as they are not on appropriate therapy.

The earlier HIV it is detected the easier it is to manage and get treated which also makes the risk of passing on the virus to others much lower.  If you are diagnosed with HIV before it has damaged your body and you are put on effective treatment, you can expect to live as long as anyone else.

Late Diagnosis in Leicester

Late HIV diagnosis in Leicester is 13.8% higher than average in England and Leicester has the 6th highest rate of late diagnosis of HIV in the country.  As a city with these statistics, we are responsible for doing everything we can to ensure these late diagnoses come down and to ensure that people know their HIV status.

The halve it pledge commits to:

  • Making HIV testing easier to access and available in a variety of settings in the NHS, HIV charities and patient groups
  • Ensuring there are a variety of ways to test for HIV, including home sampling and finger prick testing;
  • Ensuring that people diagnosed with HIV are quickly referred to the right care to improve health and prevent onward transmission
  • Working together to reduce the stigma that has been associated with HIV

We work all year round to help halve the number of people being diagnosed late, not just on World AIDS Day.  For more information on HIV Testing, please visit our website where you can find information about testing with us or other places in Leicester and Leicestershire around the UK.

want a hiv test at home? no problem!

If you prefer not to visit your GP or visit a local service like us, you can also for a FREE home sampling HIV kit or you can purchase your own self test kit.  An explanation on the differences between testing methods is available in our HIV Testing Pages.

Do you know your HIV status? – The only way to know if you have HIV or not is to get a HIV test.  You can do this for free at your doctor, free at an NHS clinic, free with charities like LASS and now you can even do a HIV test at home, at your convenience.

keithvLeicester East MP Keith Vaz said:

“I welcome the fantastic work being done by LASS to promote HIV testing and fully support the important campaign to halve the late diagnoses of the virus in Leicester, and across the world. It is vital that more and more people become aware that testing is free and simple.

Enabling greater access to information around HIV and how it is contracted, tested for and managed is critical in reducing the spread of this virus.”

Assistant city mayor Cllr Abdul Osman, executive lead for public health for Leicester said:. “HIV testing is quick free and easy. We would urge people who think that they may have contracted HIV to take a test. “It’s better to know and get treatment early. Testing and treatment remain confidential and available via the NHS”

Jenny Hand, CEO of LASS “We’re delighted to see such strong support for this campaign. At LASS we see the impact of late diagnosis of HIV. HIV isn’t a death sentence – if caught in time people can live long and healthy lives. But we need people to be tested so we can provide the appropriate treatment, care and support.”

 HIV: the facts

  • There were 103,700 people in UK were living with HIV in 2014 (Health protection agency)
  • 17% (18,100) of that figure are unaware and at risk of unknowingly passing their virus onto others
  • If diagnosed early, people living with HIV can expect a normal life expectancy
  • Once people are accessing treatment the chance of passing the virus onto others are reduced to severe minimum
  • HIV is mainly concentrated in two populations- men who have sex with men and black and African communities, but infection rates in other groups are rising
  • The vast majority of HIV infections occur through unprotected sex.

In an age where Hospitals and GP practices fail to routinely test for HIV, can you really afford not to decide to take one yourself? – Here’s why you shouldn’t be afraid of taking a HIV test.

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