World AIDS Day highlights importance of early HIV detection

Council House Summer

People of Nottingham are being urged to wear a red ribbon to unite in support of the fight against HIV – at the same time as home-sampling kits are made available.

On World AIDS Day today (Tuesday), figures have revealed that the city has a higher rate of HIV cases and later diagnosis than the national average.

Nottingham has 2.92 people with HIV per 1,000 residents aged 15 to 59, which compares with 2.22 nationally and where more than two-per-thousand is considered ‘high’. Meanwhile, between 2012 and 2014, 55.3 per cent of adults of the same age were diagnosed at a later stage when the immune system is weakened and less responsive to treatment, against a national average of 42.2 per cent.

The aim of World AIDS Day is to have communities stand together in solidarity and help make HIV stigma a thing of the past. The red ribbon is the universal symbol of awareness and support for those living with the condition.

While some groups are more at risk of HIV infection, including homosexual men and some black African men and women, it is important to remember that people from all races and different sexualities can be at risk.

One of the most effective ways of reducing its prevalence is to increase access and take-up of HIV testing. This underpins the ‘normalisation of HIV’ testing, reduces late diagnosis and prevents onwards transmission.

Earlier diagnosis of HIV has considerable health benefits because it allows access to more effective treatment and care. People living with the infection can expect to near-normal life expectancy if they are diagnosed promptly.

Late diagnosis of HIV is the most likely cause of death from the disease in the UK.

Key advice is to practice safe sex, always use a condom correctly and consistently until new partners have had a sexual health screen.

Anyone who thinks they may have been at risk is advised to speak to their GP or contact the local open-access sexual health services provider at Nottingham University Hospital NHS Trust.

Within Nottingham, an HIV home-testing kit is now available where patients can take their own sample (a finger-prick blood test) and return it for analysis. To access the service visit www.freetesting.hiv

Councillor Alex Norris, Portfolio Holder for Adults, Health and Community Sector, said: “National evidence tells us that increasing testing is an important factor in reducing the undiagnosed rates of HIV infection.

“Within the City, we continue to commission a number of services to provide HIV testing, however there remains a stigma around the issue of HIV and it’s one of the reasons why diagnosis of this infection is often late – both nationally and here in Nottingham.

“We’re aware of an issue here with late diagnosis and we want to do something about that. We need to make sure that people are able to get on with living healthy lives, which is so often the case when the infection is caught early.”

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