It’s best to test, says HIV charity as England’s first National HIV Testing Week comes to the Wirral
HIV and sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust is throwing open the doors of its Birkenhead centre for a week-long marathon of HIV testing this November, as part of England’s first ever National HIV Testing Week. From Monday 26th to Thursday 29th November the charity 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, the Birkenhead centre 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 extended opening hours.
The opening hours during testing week will be as follows:
• Monday 26th November 4pm to 6pm
• Tuesday 27th November 4pm to 6pm
• Wednesday 28th November 5pm to 8pm
• Thursday 29th November 4pm to 6pm
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 opening up our centre for a week of free walk-in testing, 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.”
People are invited to attend the clinics at Terrence Higgins Trust’s Birkenhead centre at 5 Bridge Street, Birkenhead, Wirral, CH41 1AS during National HIV Testing Week without any need to make a prior appointment. People can also contact the centre to book an appointment at an alternative time by calling (0151) 666 9890 or emailing email@example.com.