It’s National HIV Testing Week this week (1 – 7 February) and a great opportunity to test for HIV.
Getting tested regularly reduces the risk of living with HIV without knowing it, and means speedier access to HIV treatment quickly, to help lead a normal life. It’s simple to find out your HIV status; a finger-prick test is all it takes, and you don’t even have to step outside your front door.
For people living in Hackney, getting tested is easy and free, and still accessible despite COVID-19 measures.
Discreet, at-home HIV and STI testing kits can be ordered through the Sexual Health London portal – www.shl.uk. If you do not have digital access, it’s still simple to order a test, by calling the local sexual health service on 020 7683 4103, where clinicians will be able to arrange for you to get a test at a clinic
Anyone diagnosed with HIV can access free and effective treatment and a wide range of holistic health and wellbeing support is available to Hackney and City residents.
Treatments for HIV have come a long way since the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and 1990s. These days, people living with HIV can access free treatment that reduces the level of virus in their bloodstream to a really small level, meaning they can lead a normal, healthy life and not pass the virus onto others, including sexual partners. This is known as “Undetectable Equals Untransmittable”, or “U=U”.
Being HIV-positive is no longer a death sentence, but getting tested to know your HIV status in the first place is key, as many people can live with the virus for a long time without knowing they have it, meanwhile passing it on to sexual partners. Also, the sooner someone starts on effective treatment, the less chance there is of the virus damaging their health.
PrEP (Pre-exposure Prophylaxis) medication is now freely available to local residents in some of these groups and they are encouraged to access it. Taking PrEP before sex can help to protect you against HIV. Visit www.homerton.nhs.uk/prep to find out more.
Using condoms is an effective way of reducing the transmission of HIV and City and Hackney residents aged under 25 can access free condoms through Come Correct – www.comecorrect.org.uk.