With HIV one of the UK’s fastest growing serious health conditions, on the occasion of National HIV Testing Week health professionals from Lancashire Care’s Contraception and Sexual Health Service (CaSH) are calling on people across the county to get tested for HIV.
An estimated 103,700 people in the UK live with HIV with over 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.
Sally Myerscough, HIV nurse with 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 2014 alone, some 613 people with HIV in the UK died with the figure increasing each year. 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 safe 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 higher the risk of HIV associated infections and complications.”
Common symptoms of early HIV infection are a fever, rash and severe sore throat which occur at the same time. If you feel you have been exposed to a risk of infection, you should take a HIV test. Around 70 to 90 percent of people experience symptoms of early infection, but as the symptoms can be mild they often go unnoticed. 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. It is, therefore, important that for tattoos and piercings people ensure all equipment is thoroughly sterilised; needles used for injecting drug paraphernalia should also 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. To find out more about services in your area, visit www.lancashirecare.nhs.uk/cash-lancashire.