Support services for people living with HIV (PLHIV)

For people living with HIV (PLHIV), they have to face issues such as medical treatment, employment, disclosure of HIV status, relationships and emotional support. The Foundation provides the following services to help them cope with these issues:

For enquiries, service application and enrollment for activities, please contact us by:
a) Telephone:25608528
b) E-mail:
c) Line:

Counselling service is provided for PLHIV, their family members and partners and those affected, helping them tackle their problems and address their worries on health, work, family, and relationship issues caused by the infection and related emotional disturbance.

In response to the different stages of infection, appropriate support groups will be formed for PLHIV in accordance with their needs. Self-acceptance and problem solving abilities of PLHIV would be enhanced through mutual sharing, support and encouragement among the peers in the support groups, with the building of a supportive network.

Seminars, training workshops and social gathering are organised for PLHIV to reinforce their knowledge of health and safe sex and enhance their quality of life and the building up of a supportive network.

A leisure drop-in centre, equipped with high-definition televisions, audio equipment and air-conditioning, has been established. Visitors could chat casually with peers and take a rest amid a comfortable setting with the serving of tea, snacks, newspapers and magazines. Moreover social workers on duty may provide immediate advice and counselling service. In addition, interest classes will be organised regularly so as to strengthen the communication between participants with the objective of widening their social network and enhancing their life quality.

Volunteer training is provided for PLHIV to empower and equip them to work with Foundation’s staff and other volunteers for organising various AIDS preventive education programmes for the general public, vulnerable groups, and also providing mutual support services for other PLHIV.

Well trained volunteers can provide home visit or medical escort service for PLHIV living alone or in hostels to show their care and concern.

For those PLHIV who find individual counselling or support group not convenient, may send enquiries about their worries or problems to our social workers through email:

Referral service is provided for PLHIV with various needs such as request for specialist consultation on the areas of law, insurance and medical services etc.

Immediate financial assistance could be offered to PLHIV with urgent need through a small support funding. Moreover, equipment such as wheelchair and walking frame is available for borrowing by PLHIV for temporary use.

What is AIDS?

AIDS stands for “Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome” and it is caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).

When HIV enters the human body, it will attack the CD4 cell, a kind of white blood cells, and destroy the human immune system, making the infected vulnerable to attack by virus and bacteria. With the immune system destroyed, the infected will often die as a result of attack by a certain disease or different kinds of diseases.

I've just found out that I have HIV, what will happen to my health?

There are a few stages that one may go through before the development of AIDS.

Asymptomatic incubation period
The infected may enter a stage called asymptomatic incubation period in which the virus goes into a period of relative inactivity and causes damage that the infected cannot feel.

The virus can live inside the human body for 10 years or more. The length of the incubation period depends on the health situation, availability of treatment, psychological status and so on of the infected person. There can be no symptoms at all during that period.

AIDS is diagnosed when the infected has a variety of symptoms, infections, and specific test results.

According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the United States, CD4 cell counts in someone with a healthy immune system range from 500 to 1,800 per cubic millimetre of blood. AIDS is diagnosed when one’s CD4 cell count goes below 200.

Opportunistic Infections
Because HIV damages the immune system, the infected may have a higher chance of getting certain diseases, called opportunistic infections. According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the United States, opportunistic infections include 26 types of diseases.

Examples of Common Opportunistic Infections:
● Pneumocystis Carinii Pneumonia (PCP);
● Cytomegalovirus (CMV);
● Tuberculosis (TB);
● Mycobacterium Avium Complex (MAC);
● Cryptococcus Infection (Crypto); and
● Toxoplasmosis (Toxo).

Certain symptoms can occur with opportunistic infections, including:
● Breathing problems;
● Mouth problems, such as thrush (white spots), sores, change in taste, dryness, trouble swallowing, or loose teeth;
● Weight loss;
● Diarrhea; and
● Skin rashes or itching.

Is there any cure or treatment for HIV/AIDS?

There is no cure for HIV. However, there has been and continues to be lots of research into possible cures.

Although there is no cure for HIV infection at present, there are treatments that can help PLHIV keep the disease under control and live productive lives. In Hong Kong, people living with HIV/AIDS are able to get related medication and treatment from the government.

Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy (HAART), commonly known as cocktail treatment that combines three or more medicines, has been proved to be effective in limiting the replication of the virus in the body, delaying the destruction of the immune system and development into the condition of full-blown AIDS.

Each HAART is tailored to each individual infected and it may cause some side effects. Please consult your doctor for more information on the regimen.

Antiretroviral medicines
These medicines are powerful to control the retrovirus like HIV and slow progression of infection, but they do not cure it. Make sure you take these medicines exactly as your doctor prescribes.

Other treatments
Your doctor may prescribe other medicines for you to control the virus and prevent particular infections. It is important to work closely with your doctor because HIV and the related illnesses vary from person to person, your doctor will design a tailored medical care plan for you. To help your doctor make the best choice for you, you should always tell your doctor about any side effects or symptoms you have.

How do I know my health condition?

HIV is a virus that can multiply rapidly in the human body. In the absence of appropriate treatment, HIV can destruct our immune system fast, making our body vulnerable to opportunistic infections. To fight against the disease, it is important to maintain and strengthen our immune system.

In addition to regular medical examinations, PLHIV have to undergo two kinds of special tests to keep track of the amount of CD4 cells  and the viral load for the purpose of monitoring the performance of the immune system. The results of the tests will be used to decide the timing of starting drug treatment, monitor efficacy, and assess the need for changing the drugs.

If I am infected, what can I do to help myself stay healthy?

There is a lot you can do to stay healthy. Here are some of the tips:

Medical aspects
i) Regular clinical visits help detect problems and take early and appropriate actions;
ii) Adherence to treatment schedule is very important to prevent treatment failure and drug-resistance; and
iii) If you have any concern over your health, medical situation and latest treatment, it is always useful to discuss with your doctor.

Physical aspects
i) It is essential to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Have sufficient rest, avoid smoking and limit alcohol use can help keep your body strong to fight against the disease;
ii) A well-balanced diet is always good for your health;
iii) Doing regular exercise helps keep you stronger and relieve stress; and
iv) Try some traditional healing practices, massage, acupuncture, herbs or other therapies.

Psychological aspects
i) Maintain a positive attitude towards life;
ii) Establish a support network and share your feelings with friends and loved ones when you are ready to do so; and
iii) Understand and accept living with HIV/AIDS as one of the chronic illnesses.

Social aspects
i) Continue to work if your health condition allows;
ii) Maintain your social participation such as participating in volunteer service to enrich your life;
iii) Equip yourself with new skills to face the challenges of life; and
iv) At an appropriate time, let your family and friends know more about HIV/AIDS so that they can understand your situation and give the support you need.

How do I protect other people from my HIV?

To protect other people from your HIV infection, here are the tips.

Things you SHOULD do

● Practise safer sex
i) Use condoms correctly and consistently – Correct and consistent use of condom can reduce the risk of transmission effectively.
ii) Use protection during oral sex

● Tell your partners that you have HIV
i) Tell people you have had sex with or those you are planning to have sex with. This can be difficult, but they need to know if they have been exposed to HIV so as to get the help they need. Practising safe sex will help protect your health and that of your partners.
ii) If you are a man and had sex with a woman who became pregnant, you need to tell the woman that you have HIV, even if you are not the father of the baby. It is because if she is infected, she has to get early medical care and intervention so as to reduce the chance of passing the virus to her child.

● Avoid substance abuse
i) You can fight HIV much better if you don’t have a drug habit.

Things you should NOT do

● Share sex toys with others;
● Share drug needles or drug works;
● Donate blood, plasma, or organs; and
● Share toothbrushes or other personal belongings that might contain your body fluids including blood.

Can I have a baby?

Many women have an HIV test when they are pregnant. HIV can be passed on from a mother to her baby during pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding. However, with the right treatment and care, it’s possible for an HIV-positive mother to have an HIV-negative baby.

Taking HIV treatment during pregnancy, having a carefully managed birth, and not breastfeeding can reduce the risk of a mother passing on HIV to her baby to very low levels.

If you are thinking of having a baby, or learn that you are pregnant, it’s important that you discuss this with your family, social workers and doctors before making the decision. They can surely give you advice on a long term plan including upbringing, financial, education and disclosure issues.

Am I protected?

In Hong Kong, PLHIV are protected by these laws:
● Personal Data(Privacy) Ordinance gives you protection against unauthorised disclosure of your information such as your HIV status; and
● Disability Discrimination Ordinance gives you protection against discrimination, harassment or vilification in the areas of employment, education, social activities and so on.

Whom should I tell?

Status disclosure is one of the toughest decisions for being HIV positive. Only you can decide why, when and to whom to disclose. There are always advantages and disadvantages of disclosing to others and you are reminded of the following points:
● Prepare yourself well before telling others;
● Find someone you trust to discuss;
● Tell someone you trust or feel comfortable with;
● Prepare strategies, including when to tell, how to tell, where to tell, whom to tell first and so on; and
● If you need advice, please ask your social workers.

Who can help me out?

If you need any consultation regarding your health and treatment, you can contact your doctors and other medical professionals. If you come across any financial, employment and accommodation difficulties, please do not hesitate to contact the social workers for assistance or appropriate referral.

There are lots of organisations in the community including Hong Kong AIDS Foundation that offer support and advice to PLHIV. You can contact the following agencies if needed:

Medical support:
Queen Elizabeth Hospital (Tel: 2958 6571)
Integrated Treatment Centre, Department of Health (Tel:2780 2211)
Princess Margaret Hospital (Tel: 6461 0613)

Social Support:
Hong Kong AIDS Foundation (Helpline: 2513 0513)
AIDS Concern (Hotline: 2898 4411)
The Society for AIDS Care (Tel: 2559 2006)

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