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National HIV Testing Week 2024 launches in Essex with free HIV testing across the country

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National HIV Testing Week will kick off in Essex on Monday 5 February 2024 with free, confidential and fast HIV testing across the county.

Essex Sexual Health Service (part of Provide Community) and The UK’s leading HIV and sexual health charity, Terrence Higgins Trust, are hosting pop-up confidential HIV testing clinics to encourage residents to get tested and know their status to protect their health. Private booths will be set up with trained staff from the charity offering free HIV tests as well as information on HIV, sexual health and free condoms. You can find them at the following locations:

  • A Place To Be You and Tesco Superstore in Braintree on Monday 5 February, between 10.30am and 2.30pm
  • The Harlow Foodbank in St Paul’s Church on Tuesday 6 February, between 10am and 2pm
  • Open Road SOS Bus in West Culver Street, Colchester on Tuesday 6 February, between 11am and 3pm
  • The Tilbury Hub in Thurrock on Wednesday 7 February, between 11am and 3pm
  • Southgate House, Basildon on Thursday 8 February, between 11am and 3pm
  • Essex University on Friday 9 February, between 11am and 3pm

Residents of Essex are able to access free STI and HIV testing all year round through Essex Sexual Health Service – these tests will be delivered in a discrete package.

Regular HIV testing benefits all of us. If you are HIV negative, you can still use protection such as PrEP or condoms to stay negative. If you are HIV positive, you can go on treatment and live a long and healthy life — people on effective HIV treatment Can’t Pass It On to partners.

The latest HIV data from 2022 shows that half of people who were diagnosed with HIV in Essex were at a late stage – this means they tested positive for HIV after the virus has already started to damage their immune system. As of 2022, there are 1,182 people living with HIV in Essex.

Testing is free and confidential. It’s also the only way to know if you have HIV and worth doing because people can live with HIV for a long time without any symptoms. It’s easier than you think to get and take an HIV test, whether you use a sexual health clinic, a GP, or prefer the convenience of using an at home test kit.

The sooner you know your HIV status, the sooner you can get on treatment if needed to stay healthy and avoid passing the virus on to anyone else. Most people will get a negative result, but whatever happens, it’s important to know that anyone diagnosed with HIV in the UK can access free treatment and support.

Sophie Milner, Service Manager at Terrence Higgins Trust Essex, said: “We’re really excited to be testing across Essex as part of National HIV Testing Week. Sometimes people are worried about getting a test, or don’t have time. By testing in local shops, centres and Essex University, we hope to show how quick, easy and convenient HIV testing is.

“Getting tested regularly should be something we’re all doing in order to protect ourselves. Today, if you test positive, effective treatment means you can live as long as anyone else and it stops you passing on HIV to partners by reducing the amount of the virus in your blood to undetectable levels. This means that the levels of HIV become so low that the virus cannot be transmitted. Testing for HIV puts you in control and is nothing to be feared.

“If your results come back positive, we can offer all the support, advice and information you need. Testing is nothing to be feared or embarrassed about. And with less than six years left to achieve the historic goal of ending new HIV cases in the UK by 2030, every test counts.”

National HIV Testing Week runs from Monday 5 February to Sunday 11 February 2024 and is coordinated by Terrence Higgins Trust on behalf of HIV Prevention England (HPE).

The week encourages people to test for HIV, particularly those from the groups most affected by HIV, including gay and bisexual men and Black African men and women.

For more information about National HIV Testing Week, go to: startswithme.org.uk

 

Terrence Higgins Trust delivers a whole population and targeted sexual health promotion service in Essex as part of Essex Sexual Health Service. Find out more and contact our Essex team.

 

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