Blood borne viruses remain a very under-diagnosed group of infections – it is estimated that 12% of people with HIV and around 50% of people with Hepatitis C in Scotland are unaware of their infections. If people find out they have a BBV earlier, treatment is usually more successful and passing it on can be prevented.
If you’ve been diagnosed with a blood borne virus, it is completely natural to experience a whole range of emotions, upset, shock or anger. You might have trouble taking it all in. Don’t worry – have a look at the guide below.
“I’ve just found out I have a BBV, what do I do?”
First of all, don’t panic, Hepatitis B and HIV can be treated very effectively and Hepatitis C can be cured. The best thing to do is to come along and see one of our specialist services as soon as you can. They will give you all the information you need to live well, start your treatment and provide support.
“What if I need help dealing emotionally with my diagnosis?”
A positive diagnosis can be quite a shock. You might begin to question your future and start re-living your past risk behaviour. This is perfectly normal and it is natural for you to start thinking: ‘What if?’ and ‘If only’.
Speak to our specialist teams about how you are feeling – they can help you come to terms with having a BBV and advise you of other support that is available locally and across Scotland here. You can also access counselling by contacting your GP.
“Will I have to start treatment right away?”
The specialist teams will work with you to decide when the best time to start treatment will be but in most cases they will recommend treatment sooner, as waiting may result in the virus making you more sick.
“Do I have to tell anyone that I have a BBV?”
You might be thinking about who you can tell about your BBV status – and who might find out. It’s only natural to think about who can support you during this difficult time. Before you make any decisions, why not talk it through with a doctor, nurse or a worker who has supported you.
It is your decision who you tell, and you should never be discriminated against based on your status.
“Is it possible to have children if I have a BBV?”
By taking precautions, it is entirely possible to have children without passing a BBV onto them. If you are planning to start a family, speak to your specialist team and they will advise you about the best way to keep you, your partner and your children safe. If you have an unplanned pregnancy, contact your GP and the specialist team as soon as possible and they will talk through the next steps.
More information on living with HIV, Hep B and Hep C, can be found in the sections below.
Being diagnosed with a serious illness can turn your life upside down. Suddenly, you’re dealing with emotions that can be overwhelming – fear, anger, grief, anxiety and helplessness. You have a huge amount of information to take in, a new and complex medical language to learn and really important decisions to make. You might have to adapt or completely change your lifestyle. You may have to face the stigma that surrounds infectious diseases. Add to that the symptoms and side effects you may suffer, and you can see why finding support can sometimes be really important.
If you can share the burden with people who care about you (family and friends), who understand what you are going through (other people with BBV), and who can give you the best medical and social care advice (your GP, practice nurse or specialist team), you are well on your way to being able to live with BBV successfully.
Scotland has one of the strongest networks of support services for people with BBVs. Visit the service finder for details of local social work and NHS services or browse our list of national support services below.
If you’re living with HIV, have you heard about myHIV, provided by Terrence Higgins Trust, yet? It’s a lifeline for some people!
Check it out and set up your account at www.myhiv.org.uk or if you’ve got an Apple device in your hands right now, download the app by clicking here.
Telephone: +44(0)131 558 3713
National AIDS Map
British Liver Trust
t: 0800 652 7330 (Free helpline, Mon-Fri 09.00-17.00)
t: 0141 225 0419
The Hep C Trust
T: 020 7089 6221
Hepatitis B Foundation UK
t: 0800 046 1911 (Monday to Friday 9am to 4.45pm)