National HIV Testing Week begins on Saturday 17 November to raise awareness of HIV testing.

In 2017, there were an estimated 106,119 people in the UK living with HIV of these it is estimated that 12% don’t know they have the condition, which increases the risk of onward transmission greatly. In 2017, 4,363 people in England were diagnosed with HIV and there were 428 deaths. In 2016, 46% of the people diagnosed in the South West were heterosexual and 44.7% were diagnosed late.

Torbay has the third highest prevalence rate for HIV in the South West of England. It also has a late diagnosis rate of 40% which is slightly below the South West’s average of 44.7%.

National HIV Testing Week, which runs from 17 to 23 November, is run by HIV Prevention England. The week encourages people to take a painless, simple and quick test, particularly those most at-risk of HIV, including men who have sex with men and black African people.

Its aim is to increase access to HIV testing in community and statutory settings in order to improve early diagnosis and treatment of HIV (and thus reduce onward transmission). We know that 95% of people accept an HIV test when offered one by a healthcare professional, so let’s make sure we offer a test to all who need one.

Executive Lead for Health and Wellbeing, Cllr Jackie Stockman, said: “As individuals, it is so important that that we take responsibility for our health and wellbeing and part of that includes getting regular health check-ups. The national HIV Testing Week highlights how easy it is to get an HIV test. Getting regular checks maximises the opportunities for early diagnosis and helps increase life expectancy.”

Andrew Evans, Director of Operations & Finance at The Eddystone Trust, the local HIV and sexual health charity, said: “We want this year to reach even more people that we were tested last year across the South West over the next few weeks and we encourage anyone who might be at risk to come and get a free confidential test, and get your result in less than 20 minutes.”

“If you tested positive today, the effective treatment available to you means that you can live as long as anyone else, and when the amount of the virus in your blood is reduced to undetectable levels, this means you cannot pass on HIV. Testing puts you in control and is nothing to be feared.”

The Eddystone Trust is also running a campaign for pledging to wear a red ribbon on World AIDS Day, 1 December, with the aim to challenge the stigma and discrimination associated with HIV. To promote the campaign on twitter #YourRibbonReasons is being used. You can pledge at www.redribbonpledge.co.uk giving your reason for wearing a Red Ribbon.

For more information about National HIV Testing Week, go to www.eddystone.org.uk/news/nhtw2018 for local events in the South West or the national website www.hivpreventionengland.org.uk.


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