Last week’s announcement by Hollywood actor Charlie Sheen brought HIV back into the spotlight and raised a number of issues reflected in this week’s national HIV Testing Week.
Supporting the week, which leads up to World Aids Day on December 1, Leeds has launched a new year long pilot scheme with funding from the Elton John Aids Foundation.
Leeds beat four other cities to win funding for the screening scheme now running in 38 GP practices across the city concentrating on areas where there is a higher number of people who are HIV positive. Overseen by Public Health England the aim of the pilot is to help early diagnosis and support by offering testing to new patients aged between 16 - 65 when they register at a GP practice. The test will also include screening for Hepatitis B and C.
Additional free and confidential rapid drop in testing sessions are being held across Leeds this week. These are being run by community based agencies Yorkshire MESMAC and BHA Leeds Skyline working with the new Leeds Sexual Health Service and Leeds City Council’s Public Health team.
In the UK an estimated 107,800 people are living with HIV, a figure that has more than doubled in the last ten years.
Councillor Lisa Mulherin, chair of the Leeds Health and Wellbeing Board, said the city had a great record for promoting ways to keep people healthy. “I hope HIV Testing Week will see more people benefit from the public health work being delivered across the city to get earlier diagnosis, support and treatment where needed,” she said.
Testing sessions which includes a finger-prick test giving results while you wait, are taking place across the city, including in Leeds Kirkgate market (outside the Ministry of Food), community shops, barbers and pharmacies as well as pubs, clubs and venues within the Leeds’ gay village.
Dr Sarah Schoeman, Consultant in Sexual Health & HIV at Leeds Sexual Health said everyone has an HIV status. “The sooner you know your HIV status the better it is for your health,” she said.
“If you don’t have HIV, you can stop worrying and we can help you develop strategies for the future to help you manage your risks. If you have HIV, treatment’s never been so effective and the sooner you are diagnosed the better your chances of staying healthy and living a normal life span.”
Tom Doyle, Chief Executive of Yorkshire MESMAC Group of Services urged as many people as possible to take the test. “It’s never been easier or quicker to take a HIV test and treatments have never been better.”
Log onto www.leedssexualhealth.com/latest-news/hivtestingweek to find a tester session.