People across Plymouth are being urged to pledge to go red for HIV Testing Week (21-30 November 2015) and World AIDS Day (1 December 2015)
The Eddystone Trust, the local HIV and sexual health charity, Plymouth City Council which is the strategic lead for Public Health in the city, and Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust, which provides GUM services and sexual health screening have joined forces to promote better HIV awareness in the city.
There are an estimated 107,800 people in the UK living with HIV and it is estimated that one in four are unaware they have the condition. In 2014, around 85,000 people nationally received treatment for HIV. Locally, 365 people in Plymouth have used a new home testing service supported by Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust, with three people actually testing positive for HIV that would have otherwise gone undiagnosed.
The aim of HIV Testing Week is to increase HIV testing in community and statutory settings to improve early diagnosis and treatment of HIV (and reduce ongoing transmission among those most at risk). There is now home testing available to people in Plymouth, with funding from the Regional Innovation Fund, run in partnership with Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust.
To mark World AIDS Day, Eddystone have also launched #YourRibbonReasons, which is aimed at twitter users to promote the Red Ribbon Pledge campaign.
Councillor Sue McDonald, Cabinet Member for Public Health said: “Everyone needs to look after all aspects of their health, and sexual health is no exception.
“It is vitally important that everyone practices safe sex and is tested regularly, although the national campaign focuses on men who have sex with men, and African men as nationally there is a greater prevalence of HIV in those groups.
“But HIV can affect anyone – young, old, black, white, gay or straight, rich or poor – and we want as many people across Plymouth to pledge to wear a red ribbon and support HIV Testing Week and World AIDS Day as possible.”
Professor Kelechi Nnoaham, Director of Public Health said: “Nearly a third of new cases of HIV diagnosed in our city are diagnosed at a late stage in the illness. Earlier diagnosis means that a person can get earlier treatment which in turn increases their likelihood of a healthier and longer life.
“Ultimately though prevention is better than cure and I would urge people to always practice safe sex by using a condom correctly.”
Andrew Evans, Director of Operations of The Eddystone Trust, the local HIV and sexual health charity said “We aim to promote and increase HIV testing in all areas – look out for the national ‘It Starts With Me’ campaign which we are supporting and also our own local ‘Keep Calm and Wear One’ promotional materials.
“It is better to test sooner than later, we want to expand rapid HIV testing across the South West, working with our health colleagues, faith organisations on testing and HIV, to promote and increase professionals access to training and seminars on the topics of sexual health and HIV, and we’ll be promoting the campaign on social media. We want to also want you join us in pledging to wear a red ribbon, to challenge the stigma and discrimination associated with HIV.”
Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust runs testing and screening for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. They also provide follow up advice, support and treatment for people who want to do home HIV testing, which is now available.
Dr Zoe Warwick, GUM Service Lead and Consultant in Genito-Urinary Medicine, said: “Here at your Sexual Health in Plymouth, we have been running the first free NHS home HIV testing service in the UK for several months now. We have identified three previously undiagnosed people in Plymouth by sending out only 365 tests so far. For us, this is a great success because the earlier a person is diagnosed, the sooner they can start effective medication and the better their chances are of living a long and healthy life. The medication also helps prevent onward transmission of HIV.
“For National HIV Testing Week, in an effort to get all the residents of Plymouth to know their status, we are offering a free turn up and test drop in clinic from 8am till 4pm Monday to Friday at Derriford Sexual Health clinic. Come in and have a chat with one of our team, who will carry out the test for you and give you the result in 20 minutes. We have also rebranded the service – yourSHiP – your Sexual Health in Plymouth. To find out more, please visit www.yourship.uk
Anyone can register their pledge to wear a red ribbon here www.redribbonpledge.co.uk and make a donation to support World AIDS Day and HIV Testing Week. For more information on the Eddystone Trust click here: www.eddystone.org.uk
Facts about HIV:
- 25,872 people living with HIV in the UK who do not know it
- In the UK during 2014, 613 people with HIV died, most were diagnosed late
- 1 in 599 people in the UK have HIV and 1 in 6 of those are aged over 55
- A late diagnosis creates a 10fold increased risk of death with the 1st year of diagnosis
- Throughout Europe 54% of new infections are from those unaware of their status
More information about Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trusts’ HIV services is available at http://www.plymouthhospitals.nhs.uk/ourservices/clinicaldepartments/GUM/Pages/HIVTesting.aspx
Further details about home HIV testing are available here: https://www.yourship.uk/
For more information on HIV services across the city, visit www.plymouth.gov.uk/hiv