Raising awareness of the advantages of regular HIV testing
15 Nov 2017
Community health experts are raising awareness of the need for regular testing as part of national HIV testing week which starts on November 18.
Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust’s sexual health service is encouraging people who are at risk of HIV to have regular tests to improve their health outcomes and reduce the risk of onward transmission.
Clinical lead Dr Helen McIlveen said: “I am pleased to say that across the country we are seeing a reduction in late diagnoses because people are thinking about whether they are at risk and getting a test.
“However, while rates of late diagnosis have reduced, too many people are still diagnosed late, especially among heterosexual men and women.
“HIV testing week is an ideal opportunity for people who have not previously thought of themselves as being at risk of infection, to take advantage of the range of options available to them and make regular testing part of their sexual health priorities.
“Our sexual health clinics in Northumberland and North Tyneside offer a range of free and confidential services including HIV testing.
“People can visit any sexual health clinic - it doesn’t have to be one in their local area. And they can find information about clinics and services across Northumberland and North Tyneside by downloading our free app or visiting the website.”
Increasing uptake of HIV testing is critical to reduce late HIV diagnoses and the number of people who remain undiagnosed, and therefore controlling the spread of HIV.
Anti-retroviral therapy (ART) has resulted in substantial reductions in acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) and deaths in the UK.
Promoting HIV screening and testing can reduce the number of people with a late HIV diagnosis.
Northumberland County Councillor Veronica Jones, cabinet member for Adult Wellbeing and Health said: “We are happy to support the ‘National HIV Testing Week’.
"We know that many people diagnosed with HIV have had a late diagnosis - this is a matter of concern as the evidence shows a late diagnosis is linked to poorer clinical outcomes.
"The Northumberland Sexual Health Service will be raising awareness of HIV testing in some of our community bases throughout the week."
Northumberland County Council’s Interim Director of Public Health, Liz Morgan said: “Testing and early diagnosis, gives people the best chance of living a full and healthy life and reduces the risk of unknowingly passing on the infection to someone else.
“We’d encourage anyone who thinks they might be at risk of HIV to get themselves tested straight away. It can be done discreetly by ordering a free home sampling kit on line from www.test.hiv. Alternatively you can get access to a full sexual health check-up, which will look for other STIs as well as HIV, through your local sexual health service or your GP. All of these services are free and confidential."
Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust provides a free and confidential HIV testing service at clinics in North Tyneside and Northumberland. Care of people with HIV is provided locally with four consultants specialising in HIV. There is also an HIV specialist nurse who can give one to one support to patients and provides education for professionals.
Information and advice about sexual health and the services in Northumberland and North Tyneside is available on a free interactive app. The app includes centralised booking and where to find clinics, where to get free condoms, online symptom checker and advice about testing and support. Users can also email questions using this app direct to the service to get the advice they need from an experienced and qualified sexual health practitioner.
To find out more about the service or to download the app visit https://www.northumbria.nhs.uk/sexual-health
Pictured standing next to The Eyes Open 2017 HIV Awareness Quilt that was on display recently in reception at County Hall, from left are: Dr Helen McIlveen, sexual health service clinical lead at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust; Northumberland County Councillor Veronica Jones, cabinet member for Adult Wellbeing and Health; and Northumberland County Council’s Interim Director of Public Health, Liz Morgan.