Thursday 1 December is World AIDS Day – a global campaign by the National AIDS Trust which aims to help prevent new cases of HIV, secure the rights of people living with the condition and continue the fight against the stigma surrounding it.
According to the National AIDS Trust, there are currently more than 105,000 people living with HIV in the UK, yet recent research found 63 per cent of people surveyed did not remember seeing or hearing about HIV in the previous six months – and only a third said they have sympathy for people living with HIV, regardless of how they acquired it.
The survey also found that one in five people think you can acquire HIV through kissing and only 16 per cent of those questioned knew that if someone is on effective treatment, they can’t pass HIV on and can expect to live a long and healthy life.
Hope House Sexual Health Service is getting behind this year’s campaign and helping promote the importance of prevention and early detection, by offering free, anonymous HIV testing.
Dr Andrew De Burgh Thomas, Consultant in Sexual Health and HIV, said: “We offer HIV testing throughout the year as part of our standard sexual infection screening. But in recognition of World AIDS Day, we are offering an additional facility for people to drop into our sexual health clinic at Hope House on weekdays between Thursday 1 and Friday 9 December, for a free, anonymous HIV test.
“If you were to test positive for HIV, we would not disclose this to anybody – not your employer, not your GP. This is your information. However, should you receive a positive result, you will be able to access free treatment and support here at Hope House.”
The HIV treatments currently available can’t get rid of HIV completely but work by reducing the amount of HIV in the body, so the immune system can improve. Once the HIV is undetectable in the blood it is untransmissible. This is known as U=U – i.e., ‘Undetectable = Untransmittable’.
Dr De Burgh Thomas added: “HIV is now classified as a chronic illness, not a fatal one. The recent and continuing improvements in anti-retroviral treatment (HIV medication) therapies mean that people living with HIV can experience a near-to-normal life expectancy, undetectable levels of virus, and enjoy a full life.”
Hope House will be offering its free, anonymous HIV testing service at its clinic in Gloucester (located on the grounds of Gloucestershire Royal Hospital) weekdays (Monday to Friday), between Thursday 1 and Friday 9 December. No appointment is needed, simply drop in between 10am and 12 noon.
To find out more about the HIV Service, visit the Hope House website.
Home testing kits
People can also test at home using HIV postal and self-test kits. To find out more, and for further information about the HIV Service, visit the Hope House website>
For further facts about HIV visit the National AIDS Trust website.
Patient stories: Living with HIV
In these short films, patients who have been accessing the treatment and support available from our HIV service at Hope House, talk about their experiences of living with the condition, and how early detection and treatment has helped them to live full, happy and productive lives.