It’s best to test, says HIV charity as England’s first National HIV Testing Week comes to St Helens
HIV and sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust and the St Helens Hospital Sexual Health Clinic (St Helens & Knowsley Teaching Hospitals) are joining forces to put on a free walk-in testing session in St Helens, as part of England’s first ever National HIV Testing Week. On Wednesday 28th November from 6pm to 9pm, the NHS Walk In Centre in the Millennium Centre, St. Helens, will be offering free HIV testing without prior appointment for local people at high risk of infection.
In 2011, more than 6,700 people were accessing care for HIV in the North West of England. However a quarter of people with HIV locally remain undiagnosed. Someone who is diagnosed late, after the point at which they should have started treatment, is nine times more likely to die within a year of receiving their diagnosis than someone who tests in good time.
Although anyone can attend for a test during National HIV Testing Week, Terrence Higgins Trust is particularly urging gay and bisexual men and Africans, the two groups most disproportionally affected by HIV in the UK, to take advantage of the one-off session.
Testing is done using a finger-prick blood test, with the results provided within one hour. Those who attend the clinic will be given information and support before and after the test, and anyone who tests positive will be referred immediately to a specialist clinic. Terrence Higgins Trust staff will also provide free condoms, and information and advice on safer sex.
National HIV Testing Week, which is planned to be an annual event, is being co-ordinated through HIV Prevention England (HPE), a partnership of community organisations funded by the Department of Health to carry out national HIV prevention work in England among communities at an increased risk of infection. It forms the centrepiece of HPE’s autumn campaign Think HIV, which aims to encourages people at high risk of HIV to test more regularly for the virus.
To take part in the campaign, gay men and Africans can 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.
Jane Morel, Regional Manager for Terrence Higgins Trust in the North said: “There are more people than ever living with HIV in the North West, yet the number of people who don’t know that they have the virus remains unacceptably high. People who are diagnosed late can face serious health problems and also risk passing on the virus unwittingly.
“By staging this free walk-in testing session, we want to remind people that it really is best to test. We hope to see lots of people coming through our doors throughout the week. We also hope that the new initiative will get people thinking more about testing, not just during the week, but all year round.”
No prior appointment will be required to attend the one-off clinic. People who would like further information can call 01744 646 482 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.