Today (Thursday 1 December) marks World AIDS Day. Over 105,000 people are living with HIV in the UK. Globally, there are an estimated 38 million people who have the virus.
To support the UK ambition of ending new infections of HIV by 2030, Somerset County Council is working together with The Eddystone Trust and the Somerset Wide Integrated Sexual Health Service (SWISH) to encourage people to ‘claim their status‘ by having an HIV test.
HIV treatment has made huge advances and enables those living with the HIV to lead stable and healthy lives without worrying about passing the virus to others. Testing for HIV puts you in control and can be done in person at any of the SWISH clinics or by ordering a home test through their website or The Eddystone Trust website.
Even though testing is free, simple, and painless, Somerset sees higher numbers of people who discover at some point in their life they have contracted HIV and did not know they had it, than the England average. In the period 2019 to 2021 45.5% of newly diagnosed cases of HIV in Somerset were a late diagnosis, which leads to an increased risk of onward transmission and increases the risk of early death.
Late diagnosis in Somerset is high amongst those who identify as heterosexual, who are less likely to access HIV testing, as well as in those who identify as gay or bisexual men and other men who have sex with men.
James Mead, Development Lead for Prevention at The Eddystone Trust, said: “This year we want people to claim their HIV status. World AIDS Day is an opportunity to start conversations about HIV, update everyone’s knowledge and perception of the virus, and get tested.”
Councillor Adam Dance, Lead Executive Member for Public Health, Equality and Diversity at Somerset County Council added: “There is still stigma and shame associated with HIV, and most of it is based on outdated and incorrect information. As well as wearing your red ribbon this year, why not claim your status and get tested!”
“By doing so you ensure your sexual health is reviewed like you would do with other areas of your health, and if a positive result were detected you will improve your long-term health by starting highly effective treatment.”
Information on the national World AIDS day campaign can be found at Home – World AIDS Day