GPs in Tower Hamlets are encouraging people, particularly those who think they might be at risk, to have a free HIV test.
Ahead of National HIV Testing Week, which starts on Saturday 17 November, Tower Hamlets Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is emphasising that early diagnosis is vital in helping people effectively manage the condition.
Recent data showed an approximate 25% drop in new HIV diagnoses among residents of Tower Hamlets from 2015 to 2016 and most people with the HIV virus live a long and healthy life, particularly if they are diagnosed early, as there are now very effective treatments available.
In Tower Hamlets and the UK, people are testing more, staying protected by using condoms and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), getting diagnosed and starting HIV treatment earlier. Thanks to this combination approach, we are witnessing a substantial decline in HIV diagnoses.
However, people with advanced HIV are more likely to have a severely damaged immune system and those diagnosed late are 10 times more likely to die within a year of diagnosis. Last year, 43 per cent of people found to have HIV in the UK were diagnosed late which means more need to come for routine HIV testing.
Many of those diagnosed late will have seen their GP in the three years leading up to diagnosis – often with signs and symptoms related to HIV infection – so voluntary testing is hugely important.
Testing is free and easy in Tower Hamlets and Positive East, London’s largest HIV charity, runs a free and confidential HIV testing service www.positiveeast.org.uk. More information on where you can find your local testing centre can also be found here: https://alleast.nhs.uk/find-a-clinic.
People can rest assured that, if diagnosed with HIV, they can access free treatment and support.
It is also important at this time of year for people with weakened immune systems from HIV and other long term conditions to get their free flu vaccine from their GP or local pharmacy.
Sir Sam Everington, Chair of NHS Tower Hamlets Clinical Commissioning Group and a local GP, said: “Incidence of HIV is falling both in Tower Hamlets and the UK. However, early diagnosis remains key to supporting patients to manage HIV as a long-term condition.
“We want to make testing as easy an experience as possible and we would encourage anyone with any concerns to come and get tested.
“We will continue our year round work to help tackle the stigma of HIV, reduce diagnoses and reach people early enough to support them to live long and fulfilling lives.”