Mortimer Market Centre
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Having regular blood tests is an important part of your care.
HIV can affect many organs and systems in your body and the tests help to check for any complications of HIV and ensure you stay healthy. They are also vital to check that your medication is working as it should.
All medicines are processed by either the liver or the kidneys – or both – and therefore your HIV medication can affect these organs.
Although the HIV medication used in the Bloomsbury Clinic has gone through rigorous testing and is very safe, unexpected reactions can occur on rare occasions. The blood tests help to identify these quickly.
Remember… blood tests tell your doctor or nurse a lot more information than they can get from speaking to you or examining you.
Your nurse or doctor will help decide how often you need to be tested. Most people who are stable on medication – and have no new health concerns – will have tests once every six months as a minimum.
The tests will be done more often if you are unwell, have more advanced HIV with a low immune system or you are starting or switching medication.
Remember… have a sexual health screen with blood tests for sexually transmitted infections every three months if you have had any new sexual partners in that time.
Exactly what tests you need will depend on many things including your age, gender, the type of medication you are taking … and what other illnesses you may have
Once you are on treatment, the most important blood test is the HIV Viral Load. This indicates how much virus is in your bloodstream and how well your treatment is working.
When you are not on treatment your CD4 count gives your clinician a good idea of how your immune system is doing and whether it has been previously damaged by the HIV. Your CD4 count is a measure of the CD4 cells, a type of white blood cell that the HIV virus selectively infects.
However, once you are established on treatment the CD4 count is less useful and it is not necessary to check if it is over 500 and your viral load stays undetectable.
Other important blood tests monitor your kidneys, liver function and bone salts (calcium and phosphate); your red cells (which carry oxygen to your heart and brain) and white cells (which fight infection). You may also have a check for cholesterol and a screening test for diabetes.
From time to time we will check that you are immune to Hepatitis B and, if not, you will have a booster or course of vaccine. If you are sexually active you may be offered a test for Syphilis and Hepatitis C.
Our blood tests also screen for some age-related conditions allowing them to be picked up and treated early, before they have a chance to cause harm.
Researchers think this is the reason that some people living with HIV are now outliving the general population!
Remember… blood tests mean early detection, therefore early treatment!
We aim for everyone on treatment to have an undetectable viral load!
Antiretroviral treatment stops the virus from reproducing so that the viral load becomes so low that it cannot reliably be counted in the blood, a so-called “undetectable viral load”. At the Bloomsbury Clinic, Mortimer Market this means less than 50 copies per ml.
Once you have been on treatment for a few months we would expect your viral load to become undetectable and to stay there as long as you stay on treatment.
An undetectable viral load means that the virus cannot damage your immune system and allows you to stay healthy with a normal life expectancy.
It also makes it virtually impossible for you to pass on the virus to any HIV negative sexual partner or, if you are a pregnant woman, to your baby. Remember… un-detectable = un-infectious.
Your results are reviewed by a doctor as soon as they are received by the clinic. Most tests will be back within a week.
You will be contacted immediately by phone about any urgent abnormality in your tests.
The clinic phone system will show as a withheld number. Please answer, particularly if you have had recent tests. Your clinician will talk you through your results at your next appointment.
Remember… it is best to have your tests done at least a week before for your clinic appointment.
Do still come to your appointment even if you have missed your tests as you can still have them done on the day.
However, if you miss your tests several times, it becomes harder to be sure that your medication is still working and that there are no complications.
Remember…Testing your bloods regularly allows for you to stay healthy, active, with a normal lifespan.
Bloomsbury patients can book blood appointments in advance: https://www.zesty.co.uk/practices/bloomsbury-rapid-blood-test-clinic
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Bloomsbury Clinic at The Mortimer Market Centre is run by Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust
Address: Bloomsbury Clinic, Capper Street, off Tottenham Court Road London, WC1E 6JB
General enquiries: 020 3317 5100