National HIV Testing Week kicks off Saturday 18 November to raise awareness of HIV testing.
In 2017 there were an estimated 101,200 people in the UK living with HIV of these it is estimated that 13% don’t know they have the condition, which increases the risk of onward transmission greatly. In 2016, 4,690 people in England were diagnosed with HIV and there were 130 deaths. 45% of the people diagnosed in the South West in 2016 were Heterosexual and 42.9% being diagnosed late.
Plymouth’s new HIV diagnosis and the late diagnosis rates are in line with the South West of England’s average. However late diagnosis remains an issue as for those aged over 50 and diagnosed late there is a 10 fold increase in risk of death within the 1st year of diagnosis.
National HIV Testing Week, which runs from 18th to 24th November, is run by 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. Its aim is to increase access to HIV testing in community and statutory settings in order to improve early diagnosis and treatment of HIV (and thus reduce onward transmission). We know that 95% of people accept an HIV test when offered one by a healthcare professional, so let’s make sure we offer a test to all who need one.
Dr Ruth Harrell, Interim Director of Public Health said: “Nearly 41% 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.”
Councillor Lynda Bowyer, Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Social Care for Plymouth City Council, said: “We are pleased to be able to support World Aids Day and the Eddystone Trust by flying the World Aids Day flag.
“We are also supporting HIV Testing Week. Everyone needs to look after all aspects of their health, and sexual health is no exception.”
Andrew Evans, Director of Operations & Finance at The Eddystone Trust, the local HIV and sexual health charity said: “We are aiming to reach our target of testing 200 people across the South West over the next few weeks and we encourage anyone who might be at risk to come and get a free confidential test, and get your result in less than 20 minutes.
“Today, if you test positive, effective treatment means you can live as long as anyone else, and when the amount of the virus in your blood is reduced to undetectable levels, this means you cannot pass on HIV. Testing puts you in control and is nothing to be feared.”
“We will also again be flying the red ribbon flag across the South West on Council office buildings on the 1st December, which is fantastic, flying the flag shows support in fighting stigma associated with the illness, we want to make HIV stigma HISTORY.”
The Eddystone Trust is also running a campaign for pledging to wear a red ribbon on World AIDS Day, 1st December, with the aim to challenge the stigma and discrimination associated with HIV. To promote the campaign on twitter #YourRibbonReasons is being used. You can pledge at www.redribbonpledge.co.uk giving your reason for wearing a Red Ribbon.
For more information about National HIV Testing Week, go to:
https://www.eddystone.org.uk/news/nhtw2017 for local events in the South West
or the national website https://www.startswithme.org.uk/
Press release issued by Eddystone Trust working in partnership with Plymouth City Council.