Communities are being encouraged to get tested for HIV, as part of a campaign that increases access to testing.
Despite recent data showing a drop in new and late HIV diagnoses, local councillors are supporting National HIV Testing Week (18 – 24 Nov), with Terrence Higgins Trust and iCaSH Bedfordshire to raise awareness, in the hope to reduce that number further.
Councillor Louise Jackson, Portfolio Holder for Public Health at Bedford Borough Council said: “Looking after your sexual health is important because you can protect yourself and others against infection. We also need to normalise testing and break the stigma, and that’s why I chose to have the test today.”
Health professionals from iCaSH Bedfordshire and Terrence Higgins Trust will be out and at venues across the county, offering the rapid finger prick test, which is fast, free and confidential.
Councillor Brian Spurr, Executive Member for Health at Central Bedfordshire Council said: “The test is free, fast and simple, and is one of the best ways to stop the spread of HIV. Testing puts you in control, so why not take a test today?”
National figures from HIV Prevention England show a 16% decline in new HIV diagnoses between 2015 and 2016 but building on this progress is vital in order to succeed in stopping HIV in the UK.
Huw Williams, Senior Youth Engagement Officer at Terrence Higgins Trust Bedfordshire said: “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 and is nothing to be feared.”
iCaSH Bedfordshire provides all aspects of sexual health, including contraception, STI testing and treatment, HIV treatment and care and psychosexual services. In addition to the hub in Bedford, which is open to all Bedfordshire residents, there are additional clinics across the county in Biggleswade, Dunstable, Houghton Regis and Leighton Buzzard. Visit www.icash.nhs.uk/where-to-go for more information or call 0300 300 3030 for appointments.
Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust has delivered integrated Contraception and Sexual Health services (iCaSH Bedfordshire) in partnership with Brook and Terrence Higgins Trust since November 2016.