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National HIV Testing Week launches in Norfolk with free HIV testing across the county

Norfolk County Council, 2 February 2024 15:58

Norfolk County Council is encouraging residents to get tested for HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) during this year's National Testing Week (Monday 5 - Sunday 11 February).

Working alongside the county's GPs, community pharmacies and charities such as the Terrence Higgins Trust, the council is raising awareness of the importance of regular testing to help reduce the number of both undiagnosed HIV cases and those who are diagnosed too late.

Throughout the week, Terrence Higgins Trust, in partnership with iCaSH Norfolk (run by Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust), is hosting free, 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 in collaboration with the Norfolk Library Service.

The service will be at Norwich Millennium Library on Tuesday 6 February and Great Yarmouth Library on Wednesday 7 February.  

In Norfolk, almost one in two (48%) people aged 15 years or more newly diagnosed with HIV infection between 2017-21 received a late diagnosis.

Despite a low level of HIV diagnosed prevalence amongst people aged 15-59 years at county level, the rate in Norwich city has remained high (above 2 in every 1,000 people) in the last decade.

Meanwhile, Great Yarmouth's HIV prevalence rate has been steadily rising since 2011 and is close to a high level.

Alex Causton-Ronaldson, who is living with HIV and from Norwich, said: "When I was diagnosed with HIV it was a complete shock to the system. I never thought it was something that would affect me. The shame and stigma around HIV made it difficult to cope - I couldn't see a future for myself and struggled to come to terms with the news.

"Counselling from Terrence Higgins Trust helped massively - it made me vow to live my truth no matter what people thought. The virus has had a minimal impact on my life thanks to amazing progress around treatment. I take three pills a day which keeps me healthy and means I cannot pass HIV on to anyone else.

"If everyone in the UK got tested regularly, we could reach the Government's goal of ending new HIV cases by 2030. This National HIV Testing Week, my message is to get tested, because it's always better to know your status." 

Cllr Bill Borrett, Cabinet Member for Public Health and Wellbeing, said: "I am pleased that Norfolk's HIV testing coverage in specialist sexual health services is better than the England average and remains in the top 10%. It's vital that we continue regular testing, especially among people from black, African ethnic backgrounds, and gay and bisexual men, as we know that these groups are disproportionally affected by HIV. Though it is important to remember that anyone can get HIV infection regardless of age, sexual orientation, race or religion.

"We're working with the Terrance Higgins Trust and GPs across the county to ensure more people get tested for HIV, quicker. HIV testing and treatment is free, confidential, and easy to access, so I urge our residents to visit the pop-up booths, order a test kit online or find testing facilities near them this National HIV Testing Week." 

Find out how to order an HIV test kit online.

Find testing facilities near you on the Aidsmap website.

Neil Howard, Service Manager at Terrence Higgins Trust Norfolk, said: "We're really excited to be testing across Norfolk as part of National HIV Testing Week. Sometimes people are worried about getting a test, or don't have time. By testing in libraries, we hope to show how quick, easy and convenient HIV testing is.

"Getting tested regularly should be something we all do 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." 

Last modified: 14 May 2024 13:20

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