Testing puts you in control – that’s the message for National HIV Testing Week

Around one in eight people living with HIV in the UK don’t know they have it. That’s why getting tested is in focus forNational HIV Testing Week, which kicks off across Buckinghamshire on 17 November with the aim of getting local people to learn more about HIV and the reasons why getting tested is so important.

If you have HIV, the sooner you find out and start treatment, the better it is for your health. Effective HIV treatment means you can expect to live as long as anyone else, avoid getting seriously ill, and ensure you don’t pass the virus on. In short, testing puts you in control.

This is important in Buckinghamshire, as latest figures show that 47% of people newly diagnosed with HIV in Bucks in 2017 were diagnosed late, compared to 41% nationally, meaning the virus could already have started to damage their immune system.

As part of Buckinghamshire’s sexual health and wellbeing service bSHaW, the team at Terrence Higgins Trust – the UK’s leading HIV and sexual health charity – will be offering free, fast and confidential testing throughout the week.

Staff and volunteers from the charity will be at Bucks New University on Tuesday 20 November and the University of Buckingham on Wednesday 21 November offering students HIV testing on campus.

This year the campaign is calling on people to ‘Give HIV the finger’ by taking a simple, painless and quick finger prick HIV test, particularly those from the groups most affected by HIV such as gay and bisexual men and black African men and women.

Noel Brown, Buckinghamshire County Council Cabinet Member for Community Engagement & Public Health said:”Advances in medical treatment mean that it’s entirely possible to live a normal life with HIV – but this in entirely dependent on an early diagnosis.

“If there’s any possibility you might have been at risk of getting HIV, there’s absolutely nothing to be gained from staying in the dark. Finding out puts you back in control, and will make sure that you can take advantage of the excellent treatment that’s available.”

Nigel French, HIV & Sexual Health Practitioner at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “This National HIV Testing Week we’re encouraging anyone who might be at risk to come and get a free, confidential HIV test. Testing for HIV is quick and easy, getting your results in less than 15 minutes.

“Today, if you test positive, effective treatment means 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.”

Local people across Buckinghamshire can also take a free and confidential HIV test at any local bSHaW sexual health clinic. To findyour nearest clinic, go to the service finder at www.sexualhealthbucks.nhs.uk

Free, confidential self-testing is available for men who have sex with men, black African men and women and the transgendered community. A test can ordered from https://test.tht.org.uk/

For more information about National HIV Testing Week, go to: www.startswithme.org.uk

This Testing Week,young people aged between 15 and 24 years will also be encouraged to have a free test forchlamydia,to help combat what is the most commonly diagnosed sexually transmitted infection. Free chlamydia postal kits are also available online via orsexualhealthbucks.nhs.ukand clicking on ‘I need a postal chlamydia kit.’

For more information please contact press@tht.org.uk or 079 5781 2691