Walsall’s sexual health staff are playing their part in National HIV Testing Week, which starts this weekend, by raising awareness about the virus , providing extra free testing opportunities and promoting home testing kits.
National HIV Testing Week runs from 18-25 November and is aimed at reducing the rates of undiagnosed people and those diagnosed late. Its theme is “Give HIV the finger” in reference to the rise in finger prick testing.
In Walsall, in 2015 there were 15 new HIV diagnoses which equates to 1.9 per 1,000 of borough population. And between 2013 and 2015 half of all HIV diagnoses in Walsall were made at a late stage of infection
Walsall integrated Sexual Health (WiSH) staff will be at the following venues throughout the week, providing and registering free home testing kits:
The Lion Bar and Club on both Saturday 18 and Saturday 25 November from 9pm until 1am. The team will also be offering blood tests at the Lion Bar and Club venue only.
Wolverhampton University’s Walsall campus in Gorway Road and the main atrium at Walsall Manor Hospital on Monday 20 November from 10am until 2pm
Saddlers Centre unit on Tuesday 21 November from 10am until 4pm
Walsall College’s Wisemore campus on Wednesday 22 November from 10am until 2pm
Main atrium at Walsall Manor Hospital on Thursday 23 November from 10am until 2pm
Working with African Caribbean community leaders on Friday 24 November
Colin Morris, WiSH outreach worker, said the focus on HIV testing was particularly important to try and reach those who would otherwise never come forward.
“While the UK as a whole is seeing a decline in HIV due to people using condoms, being tested more frequently and starting treatment earlier, there are still a number who have the virus and are oblivious to it,” he explained. “This includes a number of heterosexual people.
“But knowing your status is important. Not knowing your HIV status poses a risk to others who may become infected as a result of unprotected sex but it also means people who present late may already be experiencing complications due to the virus which means their treatment may not be as effective. As an outreach team we test people of all ages and from all walks of life and can assure anyone who is feeling anxious or nervous about being tested that we are not judgemental; we don’t make assumptions about people and certainly don’t tell people how to live their lives.
“HIV testing is free. It can be carried out by someone in their own home if they order an online kit, or at a community-based testing event. Our WiSH website www.walsallsexualhealth.co.uk contains plenty of information about how to order a home testing kit – people just need to make sure they activate the kits, following the instructions provided. Kits are also available from your pharmacist, again, our WiSH website contains details of these.”
Lisa Sylvester, WiSH outreach worker, added: “People with a diagnosis of HIV are living well but there are still a lot of misconceptions about the virus. We hope to bust some of the myths and encourage people to take responsibility for their own health through HIV Testing Week.”
Anyone with any queries regarding home HIV testing kit activation can also contact 01922 270554 for assistance.