HIV Testing Week (17-23 November) launches across Reading this coming Saturday with a focus on reducing late diagnosis of HIV with free, fast and confidential testing available locally.
The national HIV Testing Week campaign promotes that a finger prick test is all it takes to test. Locally, the team at Thames Valley Positive Support (TVPS), in partnership with Reading Borough Council and the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust, are now urging local residents to get involved and get tested.
Cllr Graeme Hoskin, Reading’s Lead Member for Health, said: “HIV Testing Week is a reminder that early testing protects lives. By commissioning and delivering HIV testing services, and raising awareness of the importance of HIV testing, the Council hopes to significantly reduce the number of late diagnoses.”
The sooner someone with HIV starts treatment, the better it is for their health. Treatment has been shown to reduce the amount of HIV in the body to levels at which HIV cannot be passed on. People whose HIV infection is diagnosed late will have a much weaker immune system, meaning they are more susceptible to suffering from other health complications as a result. Those with an undiagnosed HIV infection are at greater risk of passing the virus on through unprotected sex.
Cllr Hoskin added: “I would urge anyone who thinks they may have been at risk in the past to access the discreet testing services available as soon as possible. People can access free, confidential help and advice from the new Safe Sex Berkshire website www.safesexberkshire.nhs.uk or by visiting www.timetotest.org.uk ”
The Safe Sex Berkshire website www.safesexberkshire.nhs.uk offers advice, support and accessible information. It covers sexual and reproductive health in Berkshire, providing information and advice, locations and opening times of local services all in one place.
TVPS is raising awareness about HIV and HIV testing throughout Berkshire and offering free, rapid HIV testing in the day time and evenings for National HIV Testing Week in Reading. They also offer an anonymous live chat service through their website, where you can access advice and information about HIV and HIV testing.
Sarah Macadam, CEO at TVPS, said: “It really is vital that as many people as possible test for HIV and know their status, so they can protect themselves and their partners. Here at TVPS we offer free, rapid, HIV testing in a discreet venue and you will receive your results at your appointment. We’re also here for you to talk through any questions or concerns you may have.”
She went on to say: “With so many different ways to test, there is no excuse not to. Get involved and help us give HIV the finger!”
People can get a free HIV test in a number of ways:
· By going to a local sexual health clinic, such as the Florey Unit www.royalberkshire.nhs.uk/florey-sexualhealth.htm You can find other clinics at www.safesexberkshire.nhs.uk/local-services/all-clinics Clinics are free, confidential, non-judgmental and very used to helping people with sexual health issues regardless of age gender or sexuality.
· By asking their GP for an HIV test – nowadays there is no need for lengthy discussion about the test, it just involves a simple blood test.
· Pop along to one of the clinics or request a test from Thames Valley Positive Support. For more information about booking an HIV test, email email@example.com or call 01628 603400 or visit www.timetotest.org.uk
National HIV Testing Week, which starts on 17 November, is run by Terrence Higgins Trust on behalf of HIV Prevention England. The week encourages people to take a painless, simple and quick test, particularly those most at-risk of HIV.
For more information about National HIV Testing Week, go to: www.startswithme.org.uk
Notes to editors
The Safe Sex Berkshire website www.safesexberkshire.nhs.uk, which launched in April 2016, is provided by the six Berkshire local authorities and sexual health providers in the county.
· TVPS have been offering HIV support throughout Berkshire since 1985
· Time to Test, the community HIV testing project run by TVPS, is funded through the MAC AIDS Fund
· This project was shortlisted for a National Sexual Health Award in 2015
About National HIV Testing Week
Now in its sixth year, National HIV Testing Week (NHTW) promotes HIV testing to gay or bisexual men and black African men and women. These groups make up seven out of ten people in the UK living with HIV.
The week is co-ordinated by Terrence Higgins Trust as the lead of HIV Prevention England (HPE) funded by Public Health England, with support and participation from organisations in the public, statutory and private sectors, and promotes the benefits of regular testing and treatment for both the individual and community.
HIV is a virus which attacks the immune system and weakens the body’s ability to fight diseases.
An estimated 103,700 people are living with HIV in the UK and 6,000 people are diagnosed every year. Of these, 17% are undiagnosed and do not know about their HIV infection.
HIV treatment lowers the amount of virus in the blood to undetectable levels which stops it from damaging the immune system, and means the virus cannot be passed on to other people.
There is still a great deal of stigma about HIV. Stigma is damaging as it prevents people from getting tested, from accessing treatment and from living a happy and healthy life.
The most common way HIV is transmitted is through sex without a condom.
You cannot get HIV through casual or day-to-day contact, or kissing, spitting or sharing a cup, plate or toilet seat.
Test, Treat, Protect
It’s a good idea to test at least once a year. Test negative and end worries and doubt. Test positive and you can enjoy a long, healthy life – by testing early and starting treatment in time.
The sooner someone with HIV starts treatment, the better it is for their health. Treatment can also reduce the amount of HIV in the body to levels at which HIV cannot be passed on.
Most new infections come from unprotected sex with someone who doesn’t know they have HIV – so aren’t on medication and aren’t undetectable. So we all need to look after ourselves.