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Council supports HIV/AIDS awareness campaign

Along with partners from the Eyes Open Steering Group, Northumberland County Council is supporting the ‘U=U’ campaign to raise awareness of HIV and AIDS. 

‘U=U: Undetectable = Untransmittable Day’ on the 20th of October provides an opportunity to raise awareness and educate more people about what U=U means for people living with HIV and uses this knowledge to overcome the stigma and discrimination associated with HIV. 

The Eyes Open Steering Group was established in the North-East of England in 2003 as a way of strengthening the impact of work both locally and regionally regarding HIV/AIDS.  The group aims to raise awareness, increase understanding of, and reduce onward transmission of HIV/AIDs. 

Liz Morgan, Director of Public Health at Northumberland County Council, said: “Being involved in the Eyes Open Steering Group means we can, together with NHS and Local Authority colleagues across the North East and Cumbria, raise awareness of HIV and AIDS and achieve the vision of eradicating HIV by 2030.  

“Treatment and management of HIV has come on significantly in recent years with game changing drugs such as PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis, a treatment that can stop an HIV infection after the virus has entered a person’s body if taken within 72 hours of exposure) and PrEP (a medicine people at risk of HIV take to prevent them getting HIV) now freely available in all Sexual Health Services.  

“We now have the tools to end HIV transmission but there is a lot of ignorance and misinformation about HIV. By supporting this campaign, we hope to raise awareness and provide people with prevention information and advice, and effective treatment to stop HIV in its tracks.’   

Transmission risk is a major concern for people living with HIV and their sexual partners. Since the results of the PARTNER study, it has been clear that someone on effective treatment for 6 months or more has undetectable levels of virus in their blood and therefore does not pose an infection risk to their sexual partners.  

This is called Undetectable=Untransmittable (U=U).  

However, every week 80 people are diagnosed with HIV in the UK, despite there being tools available to halt onward HIV transmission.  

Councillor Wendy Pattison, cabinet member for adult wellbeing said: ‘We now have the tools to end HIV transmission. Through regular HIV testing, condom use, access to PrEP, prevention information and advice, and effective treatment which means people living with HIV cannot pass on the virus, we can stop HIV. 

“HIV testing and treatment is easily accessible. It can be done discreetly by ordering a home testing kit online or through your local sexual health service.   All these services are free and confidential and available across Northumberland. Let’s end the transmission of HIV in Northumberland.’ 

You can order a home testing kit from www.freetesting.hiv 

Or to find out more about the Northumberland Sexual Health service visit  www.northumbria.nhs.uk/sexual-health-services 

Read more about the work of Eyes Open here - http://www.eyesopenart.org/ 

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