Council encourages HIV testing

Calderdale Council

This Saturday (18 November) marks the start of National HIV Testing Week, and Calderdale Council is encouraging more people who are at risk of the virus to get tested.

Although Calderdale has a lower rate of diagnosed HIV infections than the Yorkshire and Humber and national averages, almost half of those who are diagnosed receive a late diagnosis.

The earlier that HIV is detected, the more likely it is that treatment will be successful. This HIV Testing Week, Calderdale Council is encouraging people to take a free, quick and confidential HIV test at the Brunswick Centre in Calderdale.

The Brunswick Centre is a charity that the Council commissions to provide HIV testing, advice and condoms to prevent HIV. They are holding a number of upcoming drop-in and outreach sessions at the following dates and locations:

  • Monday 20 November 2017, 6pm to 8pm at the Halifax office, VAC, Hall Street, Halifax
  • Tuesday 28 November 2017, 12noon to 2pm at the St Augustine’s Centre Halifax
  • Wednesday 29 November 2017, 6pm to 8pm at Todmorden Community Resource Centre, Lever Street, Todmorden

Visit link) for more information or ring 01422 341764.

Calderdale Council’s Cabinet Member for Public Health and Inequalities, Cllr Faisal Shoukat, said:

“Many people still choose not to get tested for HIV, but it’s so important to get an early diagnosis. Even if you think your chance of having HIV is minimal, I’d encourage everyone to take a test and find out for sure.”

Calderdale Council’s Director of Public Health, Paul Butcher, said:

“Taking an HIV test is quick and easy and could save your life. An early diagnosis, followed by treatment allows someone with HIV to live a normal healthy life and prevents onward transmission.”

John McKernaghan from the Brunswick Centre, said:

“We are delighted to be promoting National HIV Testing Week again this year in Calderdale. Working with our partners HIV Prevention England along with Public Health and the Integrated Sexual Health Services we are keen for people to know their HIV status.

“The Brunswick Centre is running a number of rapid testing clinics across Calderdale to reach more people. Results can be ready within 10 minutes and should someone get a reactive result there is an effective pathway in to the Integrated Sexual Health Service for a confirmation test, treatment and support. The sooner someone is diagnosed with HIV the sooner they can start treatment, which will keep them well and stop them passing on the virus.” 

Case Study – a Brunswick Centre service user

For one service user at the Brunswick Centre, an HIV diagnosis was not the death sentence they initially thought. With early diagnosis and the improvements in treatment, they are living life to the full. Read their story below:

“I tested HIV positive in December 1991 at the age of 25. I was living and working in London and had started seeing a guy earlier that year who had tested positive shortly after we met. His health began to deteriorate rapidly and he was in and out of hospital with a number of AIDS-related illnesses. I was at his side with other family members when he died in 1993 and am still in contact with his children.

“I don’t think I really thought very much about myself until after my partner had died. When I was told I was HIV positive, I remember thinking that that was it and I was going to die. Times were very different in the early 90s with very little treatment options and people I knew were getting ill and dying. I felt a bit like a ticking time bomb over the next few years, convinced I would get ill and die. Living thinking that I was dying, had a big impact on my life and decisions I made – what was the point in planning for a future?

“From the mid-late 90s things began to change with the advent of combination therapy to treat HIV. This brought with it hope and I didn’t think I would live to see it.

“I didn’t need to start treatments until my blood counts started to cause concern in 2002. I have now been on treatments for 15 years.

“I consider myself to be fortunate that I didn’t become ill in the early 90s and that I was able to benefit from starting treatments. Unfortunately, I knew so many others who had not made it.

“So much has changed for the better in the treatment of HIV over the years that I have been positive. Treatments are now are very effective meaning people with HIV are living long lives and that people on effective treatments cannot pass HIV on to other people. These are great reasons for people to know their HIV status now.

“As for me, I returned to Yorkshire a few years back. I am enjoying living in the countryside with my husband and our menagerie! In my 50s now, I am heading towards the retirement that I never thought I would have.”

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