PUBLIC health chiefs in East Sussex are urging more people to test for HIV – as part of a national campaign week.
East Sussex County Council is backing National HIV Testing Week, running from November 18 to 24 2017, aimed at encouraging more people to take the test – particularly those most likely to be carrying the virus.
People most at risk are recommended to test at least once a year, but nearly a quarter of gay and bisexual men and more than a third of black African adults in England have never been tested.
Across the UK, it is estimated that more than 13,000 people living with HIV don’t know they have the virus, and rates of late diagnosis remain high.
In East Sussex, just under two people in every 1,000 aged between 15 and 59 years have been diagnosed with HIV.
In Eastbourne, Lewes and Hastings the rate is more than two people per 1,000 – defined nationally as being a high rate – while in Hastings the rate is just above the national average.
Although the rates of HIV are lower in Rother and Wealden compared to the rest of East Sussex, these districts appear to have higher rates of late diagnosis of the infection.
More than half of the HIV cases diagnosed in Rother and Wealden between 2014 and 2016 were detected at a late stage, reducing the opportunity to access early, effective treatment and prevent transmission to others.
Cynthia Lyons, East Sussex acting Director of Public Health, said: “Modern HIV treatment means people can live a full life without any related illness, and effective treatment significantly reduces the risk of the virus being passed on to sexual partners.
“There are now more ways than ever for people in East Sussex to take a free and confidential HIV test – at GP surgeries, specialist sexual health clinics or through web-based home-sampling HIV test kits.
“The best way for anyone to protect themselves and others from HIV remains using condoms – which also help protect against other sexually transmitted infections.”
People can find out how to order a HIV home-sampling test kit or where to access their nearest HIV or STI clinic at www.eastsussexsexualhealth.co.uk. Over the last year more than 6,000 HIV home-sampling test kits were requested and delivered in East Sussex.
More information about how to protect HIV is available on the website of the It Starts With Me campaign at www.startswithme.org.uk