As part of National HIV Testing week this year, the “Big Sexy Bus” vehicle will be visiting Blackburn with Darwen on Thursday 21 November, when it will be parked outside Blackburn Town Hall from 10am to 3pm.
Members of the public are welcome to get on board the bus for a free, confidential testing service. This year, the national campaign starts on Saturday 16 November and runs until Friday 22 November.
HIV is one of the UK’s fastest growing serious health conditions, and in response to this, health professionals from Lancashire & South Cumbria’s Contraception and Sexual Health Service (CaSH) are promoting HIV testing on board the “Big Sexy Bus” and giving people who live in Blackburn with Darwen the opportunity to be tested.
National HIV Testing Week aims to promote regular testing among key populations. It also seeks to reduce the numbers of undiagnosed people and those diagnosed late. An estimated 96,000 people in the UK live with HIV with around 10,400 undiagnosed and unaware of their infection
Dr Tessa Malone, Consultant in Contraception & Sexual Health in the Trust’s Blackburn with Darwen Sexual Health team, said:
“National HIV Testing Week is an opportunity for people to get tested. This year, people are invited to get on board the ‘Big Sexy Bus’ to be tested. The earlier the condition is identified, the better the health outcomes and this is why we are hosting this event in Blackburn with Darwen during National HIV Week. 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 less effective the treatment becomes.”
Common symptoms of early HIV infection are a fever, rash and severe sore throat which occur at the same time. This combination is uncommon in healthy people and 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. However, some do not. 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.