Get a simple finger-prick test for #HIVTestWeek

Somerset County Council are encouraging anyone who may have put themselves at risk of getting the HIV virus to have a simple finger-prick test.

The ‘Give HIV the finger’ campaign is targeting people who are the most at-risk of HIV – men who have sex with men and black African men and women – as part of this year’s HIV Prevention England National Testing Week 17th to 23rd November #HIVTestWeek.

HIV testing identifies those who are undiagnosed, avoids late diagnoses, and enables people to start effective treatment immediately, preventing potential illness and protecting sexual partners from HIV infection.

Somerset has the third lowest new HIV diagnosis in the South West of England. However, it also has a late diagnosis rate of 48.8% which is above the South West’s average of 44.7% – a late diagnosis has a ten-fold increase in risk of death within the first year of diagnosis.

Somerset Wide Integrated Sexual Health Services (SWISH) and The Eddystone Trust has a list of venues and testing times available during the awareness week. Visit http://www.swishservices.co.uk for more information.

Andrew Evans, Director of Operations & Finance at The Eddystone Trust, the local HIV and sexual health charity said: “This year we want to test even more people than last year. Anyone who thinks they may be at risk can come along and get a free confidential test and they will have their results in less than twenty minutes.

“If you tested positive today, with effective treatment you can live as long a life as anyone else. When the amount of the virus in your blood is reduced to undetectable levels through treatment, this means you cannot pass on HIV. Undetectable means it is untransmissible (U = U). Testing puts you in control and there is nothing to be feared.”

Councillor Christine Lawrence, Cabinet Member for Public Health and Wellbeing at Somerset County Council said: “Sexual health plays a vital part within our Public Health work and contributes to our overall health and wellbeing. I would encourage anyone who is unsure of whether they may have contracted HIV to use this opportunity to get a free confidential test.

“We will be flying the red ribbon flag along with other councils across the South West on the 1st December to show support in fighting the stigma associated with the illness. We want to make HIV stigma history.”

The Eddystone Trust is also campaigning for people to wear a red ribbon on World AIDS Day, 1st December, to challenge the stigma and discrimination associated with HIV.
In 2017 there were an estimated 106,119 people living with HIV in the UK, of these it is estimated that 12% don’t know they have the condition which increases the likelihood of spreading the virus.

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: http://www.swishservices.co.uk

For a list of venues and testing times visit http://www.swishservices.co.uk

Local events in the South West http://www.eddystone.org.uk/news/nhtw2018
https://www.hivpreventionengland.org.uk/

ENDS
For more information please contact Andrew Evans, 07951 854651 / 01752 254406 / 0800 3283508 or email info@eddystone.org.uk

Notes to editors:
About National HIV Testing Week
• Now in its seventh year, National HIV Testing Week (NHTW) promotes HIV testing to gay or bisexual men and black African men and women. These groups make up 75% of people in the UK living with HIV.
• The week is delivered through HIV Prevention England (HPE) funded by Public Health England, with support and participation from organisations in the public, statutory and private sectors, and promotes the benefits of regular testing and treatment for both the individual and community
• This year’s theme is ‘Give HIV The Finger’ which aims to demonstrate that getting tested for HIV is as easy as a quick finger-prick test, and we’re asking our supporters to raise their finger and share a message of support. Whether individuals post to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube or Instagram, everything has an impact.
• The hashtag for this year’s event is #HIVTestWeek
In 2017 there were an estimated 106,119 people living with HIV in the UK, of these it is estimated that 12% don’t know they have the condition which increases the likelihood of spreading the virus.

More information on when and where to test is available at https://www.eddystone.org.uk/news/nhtw2018 – for local events in the South West

Or nationally at https://www.hivpreventionengland.org.uk/
World AIDS Day – World AIDS Day is held on 1 December each year and is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died. World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day and the first one was held in 1988. http://www.worldaidsday.org/
HIV facts
• An HIV+ individual with an undetectable viral load cannot pass on HIV even when not using a condom, it is untransmittable, UNDETECTABLE is UNTRANSMITTABLE, U=U. It is safer to have unprotected sex with someone who is HIV+ and undetectable than a person who does not know their status even if they test regularly.
• HIV is a virus which attacks the immune system and weakens the body’s ability to fight diseases.
• HIV treatment lowers the amount of virus in the blood to undetectable levels which stops it from damaging the immune system and means the virus cannot be passed on to other people.
• There is still a great deal of stigma about HIV. Stigma is damaging as it prevents people from getting tested, from accessing treatment and from living a happy and healthy life.
• The most common way HIV is transmitted is through sex with someone who doesn’t know their status and without a condom.
• You cannot get HIV through casual or day-to-day contact, or kissing, spitting or sharing a cup, plate or toilet seat.