The council is backing the new National HIV Testing Week campaign ‘I test’, which aims to encourage more people to get tested to help stop the spread of the virus.
The annual awareness programme is part of the government’s action plan to reduce new HIV infections by 80 per cent by 2025 and eradicate new cases of HIV by 2030.
HIV can affect anyone and as people can live with the virus for a long time without any symptoms, testing is the only way to know your HIV status.
Testing for HIV is quick and confidential and can even be done at home. Free finger-prick tests, delivered in discreet packaging, can be ordered online at www.startswithme.org.uk/testing-for-hiv with the results available by text within a few days.
Darrell Gale, East Sussex Director of Public Health, said: “Regular testing is something we can all take personal responsibility for and help reduce the number of people living with undiagnosed HIV and those diagnosed late.
“In 2021, 46 per cent of people first diagnosed in England were diagnosed late, which correlates to poorer long-term health outcomes. Very effective HIV treatments exist today, so the sooner you get tested, diagnosed and start treatment, the better it is for your, and others’, long-term health.
“With the HIV medication available most people living with the virus, if diagnosed early and regularly taking the HIV treatment, will live their full natural lifespan.”
As well as home testing, people can also get tested at their local GP surgery or specialist sexual health clinic.
Mr Gale continued: “It’s recommended everyone tests for HIV at least once a year and more regularly if you’ve had unprotected sex or more than one partner.
“Testing is free, easy, quick and discreet. Anyone diagnosed with HIV in the UK can access free treatment and support.
“I’d urge anyone who thinks they may be at risk of having HIV to take the test as soon as possible.”
Further advice and support can be found on the East Sussex Sexual Health website, www.eastsussexsexualhealth.co.uk, which provides residents with a ‘one-stop shop’ for information on sexual health and contraception.
The site includes links to access free condoms, which are an effective form of protection against HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), information on pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) a medication that someone without HIV can take to protect themselves against the risk of HIV infection, and free home STI testing information.
There is also guidance and advice about contraception, emergency contraception, pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, and service locations.
National HIV Testing Week runs from 6 to 12 February 2023. More information about the campaign, run by HIV Prevention England, is available at www.startswithme.org.uk.
Information on the government’s HIV Action Plan 2022-2025 to reduce HIV infections is available at www.gov.uk/government/publications/towards-zero-the-hiv-action-plan-for-england-2022-to-2025