With over 100,000 people living with HIV in the UK, health professionals from Lancashire Care’s Contraception and Sexual Health (CaSH) service are calling on people to get tested for HIV on the occasion of World Aids Day on 1 December.
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is an infection which attacks the body’s immune system and is passed on through bodily fluids. Over 90 percent of those who have contracted the disease have done so through sexual contact. Therefore, Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust, which provides various sexual health services across the county, is asking people to be aware of HIV and recognise the support that is available.
Tania Cockroft from Lancashire Care’s Contraception and Sexual Health (CaSH) service said:
“There are over 100,000 people living with HIV in the UK and an estimated 36.7 million globally who have the virus. Despite the virus only being identified in 1984, more than 35 million people have died of HIV or AIDS, making it one of the most destructive pandemics in history. The earlier the condition is identified, the better the health outcomes. However, the most effective way of reducing HIV prevalence is prevention. We, therefore, urge everyone, especially with the festive period approaching and the increase in alcohol consumption and lowering of inhibitions, to be aware of the importance of practicing safer sex to reduce the risk of transmission of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and unplanned pregnancies.”
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 70-90 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.
If you think you may have put yourself at risk of HIV you can access emergency anti HIV medication within 72 hours of risk to help reduce the risk of you becoming HIV positive. This medication is available at GUM clinics and out of hours from Accident and Emergency departments. If diagnosed early, treatment is available to help control the virus. The longer it takes to diagnose the infection, the higher the risk of HIV associated infections and complications.
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.