Thousands more gay men know HIV status, following National HIV Testing Week
Thursday 13 December 2012
Thousands more gay men have been tested for HIV, after more than 55 sexual health clinics and organisations from across England participated in the country’s first ever National HIV Testing Week.
The week, which ran from 23rd – 30th November, was launched by Terrence Higgins Trust and coordinated through HIV Prevention England, a partnership of community organisations funded by the Department of Health to carry out national HIV prevention work in England. It was endorsed by the British HIV Association, the Health Protection Agency, and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on HIV and AIDS.
HIV Prevention England commissioned a number of regional organisations to promote the campaign in their local communities during the week, resulting in over 800 additional hours of HIV testing events across England. Some of the week’s successes included:
• A home sampling service launched by GMFA saw more than 200 home HIV sampling kits posted out to gay men in London. Kits, with which men post saliva samples to a lab and receive a result within two working days, are available through www.gmfa.org.uk/thinkHIV.
• In Leeds, Yorkshire MESMAC worked with local clinicians and sexual health nurses to provide 56 hours of community testing during the week. This resulted in 111 additional HIV tests being given in the city, compared with five tests during the same period last year.
• Terrence Higgins Trust’s centre in Brighton extended its clinic opening hours throughout the week, testing an extra 51 local people for HIV.
The initiative also received high-profile support from Mayor of London Boris Johnson, NHS Medical Director Sir Bruce Keogh, actor Stephen Fry, and singer Annie Lennox.
Paul Ward, Deputy Chief Executive at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “We are thrilled with how successful the week has been, and the great response we had from clinics and community organisations. As a result of increased testing activities during the week, thousands more gay men across England now know their HIV status. Whether you’re positive or negative, knowing your status is the first step in being able to protect yourself and your partners from infection.
“National HIV Testing Week is a great annual reminder for gay men to test. However, not everyone’s sex life is the same, and some men will need to test more regularly than others. We hope the message of the week, of how important testing is to both individual and public health, will last all year round.”
As part of HPE’s Think HIV campaign, the partnership is encouraging gay men to visit www.thinkHIV.org.uk and complete a short survey about their sex life, to receive personalised advice about how regularly they should be testing for HIV. Those participating in the survey will also be entered into a prize draw to win an iPad Mini.