Local health professionals are encouraging residents at risk of HIV to take a free, confidential test as part of a national drive to reduce the number of late and undiagnosed HIV infections.
St Helens Council’s Public Health team has joined forces with St Helens and Knowsley Hospital Trust to ensure that National HIV Testing Week, which starts today (23 November), is promoted as widely as possible in the borough.
Anyone can be affected by HIV – regardless of age, gender, ethnic background or sexuality. The virus is passed on through blood and body fluids from an infected person – so if you’ve had sex without a condom or shared needles or other injecting equipment, you may be at risk. HIV can also be transmitted from mother to baby during a natural delivery.
Liz Gaulton, Director of Public Health at St Helens Council said: “HIV is a viral infection that causes progressive weakening of the immune system. If left untreated it can result in the development of severe infections and other complications.
“However the sooner HIV is diagnosed, the quicker treatment can start – leading to better clinical outcomes and less likelihood that the infection will be passed onto others.”
Councillor Jeanie Bell, Cabinet Member for Public Health & Wellbeing added: “If anyone thinks they may have been at risk of HIV, all they need to do is pick up the phone or make their way to one of the many clinics in the borough – where they will be seen by a fully trained, non-judgemental clinician offering confidential support.”
The HIV test is a simple finger prick test. It’s free of charge and completely confidential. Any patients with a positive result will receive expert care, advice and support.
The recommended advice is to have a full sexual health screen with each change of partner and to use a condom, to protect against sexually transmitted infection.
For more information, clinic times and locations visit www.getiton.org.uk or call 0845 155 0156.