A CAMPAIGN to boost HIV testing and awareness has yielded great results.
During November 2016, local sexual health charity, Thames Valley Positive Support (TVPS), teamed up with Reading Borough Council and the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust as part of a nationwide awareness week encouraging people to get tested for HIV.
National HIV Testing Week ran from 19th to 25th of November, with a focus on reducing late diagnosis of HIV with free, fast and confidential testing available locally.
The campaign week saw a promising rise in the number of people from Reading testing, six times the amount of people tested in an average week and twice the amount tested during last year’s campaign, the majority of whom had never had an HIV test before.
Sarah Macadam, CEO of TVPS, said: “To see that 80% of everyone testing from Reading, had never had an HIV test before, shows that our testing project really does work and with the fantastic support of the Council, helping us spread the word and encourage testing, we are reaching a much wider demographic of people and they are feeling confident enough to have their first test. We’d like to say a big thank you to Reading Borough Council for such great partnership working to support our goal of lowering rates of HIV in the borough.”
Reading has a higher than average HIV rates, meaning it’s really important to encourage the uptake of HIV testing. TVPS run a community HIV testing project that aims to make testing as easy as possible – they offer appointments in daytimes and evenings, the tests are free, in discreet venues and they give results in just 1 minute. For more information on the services offered by TVPS visit www.tvps.org.uk or to book a test visit www.timetotest.org.uk
Cllr Graeme Hoskin, Reading’s Lead Member for Health, said:
“I’m delighted our support in promoting this campaign has helped yield such great results. The sooner HIV is diagnosed, the sooner appropriate care can begin. With early diagnosis treatment is extremely effective.”
He added: “The key message is early testing saves 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.
“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 .”
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.
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.
Notes to editors
Photos of the TVPS team with Cllr Hoskin are available on request.
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 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 a 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01628 603400 or visit www.timetotest.org.uk
National HIV Testing Week
National HIV Testing Week, which takes place in 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, including men who have sex with men and black African people.
For more information about National HIV Testing Week, go to:
About Safe Sex Berkshire
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
- 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.