Living With HIV


If you manage your condition properly by taking your medicine correctly and avoiding illness, you should be able to live a near-normal life. As well as taking HIV treatment, there are many things you can do to improve your general health and reduce your risk of falling ill.

These include:

  • exercising regularly
  • eating a healthy, balanced diet
  • stopping smoking

Other ways HIV may affect your life

  • you will not be able to donate blood or organs
  • you will not be able to join the armed forces
  • you may have difficulty getting life insurance to cover a mortgage loan – but life insurance is not compulsory when taking out a mortgage unless it's an endowment mortgage, and there are now specialist life insurance policies for people with HIV
  • there are some countries you will not be able to visit

Psychological impact of HIV

Getting support

As HIV is a long-term condition, you'll be in regular contact with your healthcare team, who will review your treatment on an ongoing basis.

Developing a good relationship with your healthcare team means you can easily discuss your symptoms or concerns. The more the team knows, the more they can help you.

People with HIV are seen at a specialist HIV clinic, which is usually part of a sexual health or infectious diseases clinic at your local hospital.

Psychological support

Being diagnosed with HIV can be extremely distressing, and feelings of anxiety or depression are common. Your healthcare team can provide you with counselling so you can fully discuss your condition and concerns.

You may find it helpful to talk to a trained counsellor or psychologist, or someone at a specialist helpline. Your HIV clinic will have information about these. Some people find it helpful to talk to other people who have HIV, either at a local support group or on an internet chatroom.

Telling people about your HIV

Telling your partner and former partners

If you have HIV, it's important your current sexual partner and any sexual partners you've had since becoming infected are tested and treated. Some people can feel angry, upset or embarrassed about discussing HIV with their current or former partners. Discuss your concerns with a GP or the clinic staff.

They'll be able to advise you about who should be contacted and the best way to contact them, or they may be able to contact them on your behalf. They'll also advise you about disclosing your status to future partners and how you can reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to someone else.

Nobody can force you to tell any of your partners you have HIV, but it's strongly recommended that you do. Left untested and untreated, HIV can have devastating consequences, and eventually lead to serious illness and death.

Telling your employer

People with HIV are protected under the Equality Act (2010).  There's no legal obligation to tell your employer you have HIV, unless you have a frontline job in the armed forces or work in a healthcare role where you perform invasive procedures.

If you work in a healthcare role, you'll need to be monitored by your occupational health team and HIV doctor to ensure you're not putting yourself and patients at risk of infection.

The Equality Act 2010 also places restrictions on the health questions employers can ask during a job application process.

Employers are allowed to ask health questions only after an offer of employment has been made to help them decide whether you can carry out tasks essential for the job.

If you're an employee with HIV, you may worry that your HIV status will become public knowledge, or you'll be discriminated against if you tell your employer. On the other hand, if your boss is supportive, telling them may make it easier for adjustments to be made to your workload or for you to have time off.