People urged to get themselves tested for HIV

With National HIV testing week underway, people in Liverpool are being encouraged to get themselves tested.

It is recommended that you test at least once a year, but more often if you have sex without a condom, or sex with more than one partner.

HIV is a virus most commonly caught by having sex without a condom. Currently there are 650 people in the city living with HIV infection. Approximately 50 Liverpool residents are newly diagnosed each year. It is estimated that up to 115 people living locally have the virus, but aren’t aware.

If left untreated, HIV attacks the immune system and affects the body’s ability to fight infection which becomes weakened and vulnerable to serious illness. This stage of infection is known as AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome), and at this point, there is an increased risk of life-threatening illnesses such as tuberculosis, pneumonia and some cancers.

Councillor Paul Brant, Cabinet member for adult health, said: “Testing and early diagnosis is extremely important. There are very effective drug treatments available which means if someone with HIV tests early and starts treatment, they can expect to live a full and healthy life. This also reduces the risk of passing on the virus to others. We’d advise anyone who doesn’t know their status and has had unprotected sex to get tested.”

This year National HIV Testing week started on Saturday 17th November and runs until 23rd November. The national campaign to support this has been produced by the Terrance Higgins Trust on behalf of HIV Prevention England.

The campaign leads with the message ‘a finger-prick test is all it takes’ and people can find out more information at www.startswithme.org.uk on where they can be tested.

Local campaign activity, supported by Public Health Liverpool, will continue throughout December and January, on social media and dating apps. It will aim to raise awareness about HIV testing amongst all Liverpool residents aged 16 and over, with a particular focus on key high-risk groups.

Testing is available locally through sexual health services and GPs. For further details visit www.sexualhealthliverpool.co.uk.

In addition, free postal kits for home testing are available for those at higher-risk of HIV at www.test.hiv

For further information about our local HIV testing campaign and how you can get involved visit the HIV support centre, Sahir House at: www.sahir.org.uk or follow them on Twitter @sahirhouse

Key HIV statistics related to Liverpool:

• 650 people in Liverpool are known to be living with HIV infection
• Twice as many men than women are diagnosed with HIV
• The probable route for infection for half of people living with HIV was through heterosexual sex, whilst 40% contracted the disease through men who have sex with men
• The 35-49 age group has the highest numbers of people living with the disease
• Over half the adults diagnosed with HIV in Liverpool are diagnosed late
• HIV testing uptake rates are lower in Liverpool than nationally