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Do you know your HIV status?

HIV testing poster - Local detailsHIV Testing Week will take place in Herefordshire from 22 to 30 November 2014.

Herefordshire Council’s public health team is working in partnership with Wye Valley NHS Trust’s integrated sexual health clinic and Herefordshire Clinical Commissioning Group throughout HIV Testing Week to encourage people to find out their HIV status.

HIV is found in the body fluids of an infected person, which includes semen, vaginal and anal fluids, blood and breast milk. Anyone who has unprotected sex, this includes anal, oral and vaginal sex and sharing sex toys or who shares needles and other injecting equipment is at risk from contracting the virus.

1 in 4 people who have HIV do not know that they have it. This means that approximately 21,900 people in the UK are unknowingly living with HIV and potentially infecting others.

Treatment for HIV is now better than ever. A HIV test can give you better health, a longer life and peace of mind. People who have the virus can live as long as those without the virus if diagnosed early and they start treatment.

If you think you have put yourself at risk of HIV, you should seek medical advice and have a test as soon as recommended. Emergency anti-HIV medication called PEPSE (post-exposure prophylaxis following sexual exposure) may stop you becoming infected, but treatment must be started within three days of coming into contact with the virus. The earlier PEPSE is started, the better the chances of preventing HIV infection.

Councillor Graham Powell, Cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said: “It is a known fact that 1 in 4 people who have HIV don’t even know it, which is why it is so important to promote free testing for those who believe they could be at risk.

“There have been great advances in medical science over the past decade, which means that living with HIV, providing you receive treatment, needn’t stop people living a long and healthy life.

“If you believe you could be at risk, please visit a health practitioner as soon as possible for free and confidential advice.”

Dr Catherine Chima-Okereke, Wye Valley NHS Trust’s consultant / director of integrated sexual health services said: “Although we are encouraging anyone who wishes to be tested to do so, we are specifically targeting men who have sex with men, people from Africa and other HIV prevalent countries, people who have shared needles or other injecting equipment and anyone who has had sex with these groups.

“Together we can reduce the growing number of people who are diagnosed late with HIV and unknowingly pass it on to other people.”

The best way to prevent HIV is to use a condom for sex and to never share needles or other injecting equipment. The only way to find out if you have the virus is to have a HIV test. This is done by having a blood test; which is free, confidential, simple and fast. Visit your GP or the integrated sexual health clinic based in Gaol Street Health Centre, Gaol Street, Hereford to get tested.

For more information about HIV, sexual health and local services, please visit:
www.herefordshire.gov.uk/sexualhealth.

Tags: Public Health