HIV testing available

Somerset County Council’s Public Health team is supporting National HIV Testing Week this week, raising awareness of HIV testing and highlighting where and how to test.

Run by HIV Prevention England, this week encourages people to take a simple and quick finger prick test. Anyone can be affected by HIV. The campaign encourages those disproportionately affected by HIV to take a test, these include men who have sex with men, and those of the black African community.

It also aims to increase access to HIV testing in community settings in order to improve early diagnosis and treatment of HIV, reducing onward transmission.

Special drop-in testing sessions are taking place across the county this week, including:

  • Wednesday, 22 November, 9am – 5.30pm: Millstream House, Castle Street, Taunton, TA1 4AS
  • Thursday, 23 November, 11am – 6pm: Frome Medical Practice, Enos Way BA11 2FH
  • Friday, 24 November, 1pm – 6pm: East Quay Medical Centre, East Quay, Bridgwater, TA6 4GP

In 2017, it is estimated that 101,200 people in the UK are living with HIV. Of those, around 13 per cent don’t know they have the condition, which increases the risk of onward transmission.

Cllr Christine Lawrence, Cabinet Member for Public Health and Wellbeing at Somerset County Council said: “Somerset has the third lowest new HIV diagnosis rate across the South West of England, but a higher than average late diagnoses. That’s why getting yourself tested is so important.

“The test is quick – a simple finger prick test means you will receive your results there and then. For more information about National HIV Testing Week and where and when you can get tested, visit www.eddystone.org.uk

Andrew Evans, Director of Operations and Finance at The Eddystone Trust, the local HIV and sexual health charity, said: “We are aiming to reach our target of testing 200 people 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.

“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.”

Further information can be accessed from Somerset Wide Integrated Sexual Health Service – http://www.swishservices.co.uk and/ or telephone 0300 1245010 and through the Eddystone Trust http://www.eddystonetrust.org.uk  and/or telephone 0800 328 3508.

The Eddystone Trust is also running a campaign pledging to wear a red ribbon on World AIDS Day, 1st 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 http://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/nhtw2017 for local events in the South West or the national website which also enables people to order a postal kit https://www.startswithme.org.uk/