Give HIV the finger – a finger prick test is all it takes

ISSUED ON BEHALF OF NATIONAL HIV TESTING WEEK

Sexual health charities, Leeds City Council and the NHS are gearing up for National HIV Testing week starting Monday 7 February.

This year’s campaign will continue on last year’s successful campaign ‘Give HIV the finger: a finger-prick test is all it takes’ and features celebrities and influencers promoting the message.

Opportunities to get a free, fast, confidential finger prick test for HIV are available at multiple venues across the city as well as online via www.freetesting.hiv  

Tom Doyle, Chief Executive – Yorkshire MESMAC Group of Services said:

“We are holding pop-up HIV testing clinics across the city to make it even easier for people to test, the test is quick and easy, just a finger prick and you get your results in 10 minutes. Check out our website www.mesmac.co.uk for details of a pop-up clinic near you or book an appointment with using our easy to use booking system.”

Despite great advances in prevention, testing and treatment contributing to a national reduction in the number of people diagnosed with HIV, there are still around one in twenty people who are unaware they have HIV, increasing the risk of passing HIV on to sexual partners. 

Late diagnosis rates are still too high – nationally 42% of people were diagnosed late in 2020. This can lead to poorer long-term health outcomes and leads to more than a sevenfold increased risk of death within a year of diagnosis.

Councillor Salma Arif, Executive Member for public health and active lifestyles said:

“National HIV Testing Week is a great opportunity to challenge misconceptions and reduce the stigma of those living with HIV.  Being aware of your HIV status is important as the sooner you can get a diagnosis the sooner you can get treatment.  With treatment you can live a long, healthy life with no symptoms, and avoid passing the virus on to anyone else.  There are many ways to test – via Leeds Sexual Health, your GP, organisations such as Yorkshire MESMAC and BHA Skyline, a local pop in, or by ordering a test online. I have done the test myself and it was quick and easy. I would urge everyone to do the same.”

In Leeds the campaign is being run as a partnership between Yorkshire MESMAC, BHA Leeds Skyline and the Leeds Sexual Health Service. The campaign is supported by Leeds City Council. 

The campaign aims to encourage groups most affected by HIV to test, including men who have sex with men and black African communities.

Jeni Hirst, Director of Service Development & Delivery at BHA Leeds Skyline said:

‘National HIV Testing Week is a great opportunity to ensure everyone knows their HIV status and think about what more we can do to get to zero HIV transmissions. Stigma and discrimination still play a huge part in preventing people from accessing effective treatment and living well with HIV.’

Dr Sarah Schoeman Sexual health and HIV Consultant, Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust said:

“HIV testing is quick and easy. Knowing your HIV status empowers you to make informed decisions. If you test positive you can start HIV treatment which will control the virus and keep you and your sexual partners healthy. If you test negative and are at risk of HIV you can start medication to prevent yourself getting HIV = pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). HIV treatment and PrEP available on the NHS – you just need to know your HIV status to be able to access them. Use National HIV testing week to your advantage – take an HIV test & take control.”

If you are at increased risk of HIV infection, free PrEP is available on the NHS, through Leeds Sexual Health. Alternatively, to buy genuine PrEP safely, visit www.iwantprepnow.co.uk/buy-prep-now

Anyone can order a free HIV test from the National HIV Self Sampling Service between 17 January-13 February 2022. Tests can be ordered online at www.freetesting.hiv and completed at home and sent back through the post. The ultimate goal is to increase regular HIV testing in the most at risk groups.

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