Image demonstrating Raising awareness of the advantages of regular HIV testing

Raising awareness of the advantages of regular HIV testing

Community health experts are raising awareness of the need for regular testing as part of national HIV testing week.

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust’s integrated 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.

Northumbria Healthcare 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.

HIV specialist nurse Jan Meechan said: “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:  “National HIV Testing Week is a great opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of early diagnosis. Testing is free, fast, confidential and simple and we are encouraging people to get tested to protect themselves and others.”

The sexual health service in Northumberland is commissioned by Northumberland County Council and delivered by Northumbria Healthcare.

Northumberland County Council’s Director of Public Health, Liz Morgan said: “Starting anti-retroviral therapy (ART) significantly reduces the risk of onward transmission and improves health outcomes, so we are encouraging people to think about whether they may have been at risk and to get tested straight away.

“It can be done by ordering a free home sampling kit online from www.test.hiv or people can get access a full sexual health check-up, which will look for other STIs as well as HIV, through their local sexual health service or their GP.   All of these services are free and confidential."

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
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