EFFORTS to increase HIV testing levels and prevent a rise in infection rates are being backed by the county’s public health boss.
East Sussex County Council, which funds the county’s HIV Prevention project provided by the Terence Higgins Trust (THT), is supporting National HIV Testing Week 2015, which runs from Saturday, November 21 to Saturday, November 28.
Almost two people in every 1,000 in the county, aged between 15 and 59, have been diagnosed with HIV. The rates are highest in Lewes, Eastbourne and Hastings, where the figures are in the top 20% of all local authority rates across the country. However, evidence shows that there are many people who have HIV and do not know that they have the infection.
The county council is working with THT to highlight the importance of regular testing and to inform people about services that offer testing and advice.
“Detecting HIV as early as possible is extremely important, and regular testing is vital for anyone who may have put themselves at risk,” said Cynthia Lyons, Acting Director of Public Health
“The earlier HIV is detected, the quicker someone can get the treatment they need and take steps to prevent infecting others. With advances in treatment being made all the time, people with HIV can live a near normal life span.”
Cynthia added: “The best way for people to protect themselves and others from HIV remains using condoms, which also helps protect against other sexually transmitted infections.”
Some groups and communities are more at risk of HIV than others. Throughout National HIV Testing Week, a number of targeted testing opportunities will be available aimed at those at highest risk. This includes:
• testing aimed at black African communities taking place at the LINKS Project, Concordia Hall, Church Road, St Leonards on Wednesday, November 25th from noon to 3pm.
• testing provided by THT and the East Sussex specialist sexual health services (www.eastsussexsexualhealth.co.uk) aimed at gay and bisexual men, in a range of locations across Eastbourne on Thursday evening (26th November) and Saturday afternoon (28th November) during HIV testing week. To request a test during these times contact Terrence Higgins Trust on 01332 649927.
In addition to this, a postal HIV testing service, where people can self-test at home and post the sample to be tested with the results provided by text or phone, is being launched on the 11th November targeting those most at risk. Information including how to obtain a test kit and details of other National HIV Testing Week events, is available online at www.startswithme.org.uk
Anyone who thinks they may be at risk of HIV or would like an HIV test can contact their GP or the specialist sexual health service on 01323 416100 for Eastbourne or 01424 464750 for Hastings.
Members of the public are urged to protect themselves and others by using condoms with new sexual partners, and to have a simple and free HIV test if they think they have been at risk.
For advice and information on preventing HIV visit www.tht.org.uk
East Sussex contraceptive and sexual health services offer the full range of sexual health services from screening for any STIs and HIV to treating all infections and providing all contraception methods at the following venues:
• Hastings – Station Plaza Health Centre
• Eastbourne – Avenue House
• Crowborough Clinic
• Uckfield Community Hospital
• Hailsham Health Centre
• Bexhill Health Centre
• St Leonards – Arthur Blackman Clinic
• Seaford Health Centre (drop-in service for young people)