With HIV one of the UK’s fastest growing serious health conditions, health professionals from Lancashire Care’s Contraception and Sexual Health Service (CaSH) are calling on people across the county to get tested for HIV during National HIV Testing Week (18-24 November).
An estimated 101,200 people in the UK live with HIV with just under a quarter undiagnosed and unaware of their infection. As a result, CaSH is marking National HIV Testing Week with a campaign to promote HIV testing.
Tania Cockroft from the Contraception and Sexual Health Service at Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust said:
“National HIV Testing Week is an opportunity for people to get tested. You can do it at lunch time, that’s how easy it is. In 2015 alone, some 594 people with HIV in the UK died. The earlier the condition is identified, the better the health outcomes. Early diagnosis is the way forward to successfully managing HIV. However, the most effective way of reducing HIV prevalence is prevention. We also urge everyone, especially with the festive period approaching and the increase in alcohol consumption and subsequent risk-taking behaviour to practice safer sex to help avoid Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), unplanned pregnancies and of course HIV.
“It is important that people who may have had unprotected sex and experience any symptoms visit their local sexual health clinic for testing. The longer it takes to diagnose the infection, the less effective the treatment becomes.”
Common symptoms of early HIV infection may present as a fever, rash and severe sore throat which occur at the same time. This combination is uncommon in healthy people. However, if you feel you have been exposed to a risk of infection, you should take a HIV test. After two to three weeks the symptoms can disappear and it may be years before further indications of positive infection occur.
There are other ways in which HIV can be contracted, such as sharing needles, and so it is important that for tattoos and piercings, people should make sure all equipment is thoroughly sterilised, and needles used for injecting drug paraphernalia should never be shared.
The annual National HIV Testing Week promotes HIV testing, particularly to gay and bisexual men and black African men and women. These groups make up seven out of 10 people in the UK living with HIV. The week is co-ordinated by HIV Prevention England.
To contact your local CaSH team, book an appointment or find out about ‘drop-ins,’ call 01772 401140. There are clinics in various locations and different session times across Lancashire.