To mark the start of HIV Testing Week local MP, Luke Pollard, has been filmed having a real HIV test to show people how simple HIV testing is.
National HIV Testing Week (NHTW) starts on 18 November 2017. The purpose of the week is to promote regular testing among the most affected population groups and to reduce the rates of undiagnosed people and those diagnosed late. Last year hundreds of clinics and organisations nationwide participated by raising awareness, providing extra testing opportunities and promoting services available locally. Plymouth is one of 14 cities nationwide being focussed on with billboard advertising for National Testing Week 2017.
One in eight people does not know that they have HIV. Early diagnosis can mean a normal life expectancy (PHE, 2016). A late diagnosis leads to a tenfold increase of death within one year (PHE, 2016) so early testing is vital. Worryingly, those who are undiagnosed spend an average of three to five years unaware they have the virus (PHE, 2017).
Luke Pollard MP said:
“Each year hundreds of people test positive for HIV in the far south west. We all have a responsibility to protect ourselves and our sexual partners from HIV. That is why it is so important that you know your HIV status. If you are sexually active and you don’t know your HIV status you should get tested. Tests are quick and free and are available from your GP, the GUM clinic at Derriford or from the fabulous team at the Eddystone Trust who helped me with this test.
“By having an HIV test on video, I wanted to show people that HIV testing is easy and simple. I remember my first HIV test and I was worried about the process and the result. I wanted to help remove the stigma and apprehension about the testing process and as a big fan of using video in my role as an MP I thought doing a test on video was a great way of encouraging more people in Plymouth to get tested. All it takes is a simple finger prick test to find out your status in 60 seconds.”
Orion Boundy from The Eddystone Trust who carried out Luke’s HIV test said:
"This weekend marks the start of National HIV testing week. To find out more information about where to get tested and how to challenge stigma and discrimination, visit Eddystone Trust’s website.”
More information is available at: www.eddystone.org.uk/news/nhtw2017
HIV tests are not only available across Plymouth but postal test kids where tests are sent in the post are also available.
In the UK, people are testing more, staying protected by using condoms and Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), getting diagnosed and starting HIV treatment earlier. Thanks to this combination approach, the UK is witnessing a substantial decline in HIV diagnoses. In 2016, there was an 18% decline in new diagnoses from 6,286 in 2015 to 5,164 in 2016 (Public Health England (PHE), 2017). This drop is especially high among men who have sex with men (MSM).
The campaign seeks to raise awareness of the necessity, simplicity and ease of HIV testing, and provides increased opportunities to test – be it in clinical settings, in GP surgeries, through community-based rapid testing or via postal testing.
You can watch Luke taking the test below.