- In the UK, HIV treatment is provided at specialist clinics within the NHS.
- HIV medications are dispensed at hospital pharmacies or may be provided by home delivery.
- HIV treatment is provided free of charge, regardless of immigration status.
Most people living with HIV in the UK attend specialist HIV clinics or sexual health clinics, which can be found in most areas of the country. Most HIV clinics are ‘open access’. This means that you don’t need a referral from your GP (family doctor) or anyone else to use one. You can simply phone up and ask to register as a patient. You choose which HIV clinic to use.
GPs are not able to prescribe antiretroviral drugs.
You will get a prescription for your HIV treatment at your HIV clinic. Take this to either the specialist HIV pharmacy (in larger clinics) or to the hospital’s outpatient pharmacy. A high-street chemist will not dispense anti-HIV medications, unless your clinic has an agreement with a community pharmacy.
You should be given supplies to last until your next clinic appointment. Once you are stable on HIV treatment, with an undetectable viral load, your clinic will often suggest you receive your anti-HIV drugs by delivery to a place of your choice (see Home delivery of anti-HIV drugs), or by collection from a community pharmacy. By delivering your HIV treatment in this way, your clinic can save money. However you will still need to attend regular HIV clinic appointments to have your health monitored.
Always make sure you have enough medication to last until your next clinic appointment, as well as a small supply of spares, at home. If you think you might run out before this, contact your clinic as soon as possible to arrange a further supply until your next appointment.
The pharmacist will ask you if you are allergic to any medicines and explain how to take the drugs that have been prescribed to you. Pharmacists can help you with managing your medication use, including adherence, side-effects, drug interactions, food and drink requirements, storage, pill swallowing, and advice on taking your medicines while travelling.
In England, all HIV care and the anti-HIV medications provided through NHS HIV clinics and sexual health clinics are free (including no prescription charge), whatever someone’s immigration status is. In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, people are not normally charged for HIV treatment and care, although the law still says they can be if they are of uncertain immigration status.
An HIV support organisation can help you if you are concerned about being charged for treatment.