No longer is HIV a death sentence.
With an early diagnosis and treatment, people with the virus can live normal lives.
That is the message that public health bodies in Leeds are trying to get out during National HIV Testing Week, which runs until Saturday.
By the end of 2014 almost 1,200 people aged 15 to 59 in the city were accessing care for the virus that attacks the immune system and weakens the body’s ability to fight infection.
Advances in medical treatment now means a positive diagnosis does not equal the end of the road so the likes of Hollywood star Charlie Sheen, who revealed he was HIV positive last week, can still move forward.
Despite such progress, evidence shows that late diagnosis leads to a greater risk of death from the condition. In 2014, 613 people with HIV died – most of whom were diagnosed late.
As a result local community-based agencies Yorkshire MESMAC and BHA Skyline are working with the new Leeds Sexual Health Service and Leeds City Council’s public health team to run free, confidential HIV testing drop-in sessions this week.
The sessions will involve finger-prick testing, which gives you results while you wait, in a bid to ensure that those people in the area in need of treatment get it, and get it early.
Drop-in testing events will run this week at Leeds Kirkgate Market, community shops, barbers and pharmacies, as well as at pubs, clubs and venues within Leeds’ gay village where all gay and bisexual men are being encouraged to take a test.
Visit leedssexualhealth.com/latest-news/hivtestingweek for more on the clinics.
- HIV can be contracted by using a contaminated needle, through exchanging blood, semen, vaginal fluids or breast milk with someone who has HIV or through unprotected sex.
- Symptoms of the disease include a fever, sore throat, body rash, tiredness, joint or muscle pain and swollen glands.
- The best way to prevent HIV is to use a condom for sex and never to share needles.
- AIDS is the final stage of HIV infection, when your body can no longer fight life-threatening infections. With early diagnosis and effective treatment, most people with HIV will not go on to develop AIDS.