This Saturday (22 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. It’s quick, easy and could save your life.
1 in 4 people living with HIV in Calderdale don’t know they have it. Reasons for this are that they have not been checked, they don’t think it could happen to them and 62% of local people surveyed don’t know how HIV can be passed on.
In a bid to bust the myths about HIV, the Council is sending out a clear message that anyone could be at risk of HIV, particularly those who are:
- having unprotected sexual intercourse
- babies receiving breast milk from HIV positive mothers
- sharing needles
The earlier that HIV is detected, the more likely it is that treatment will be successful. Free, quick and confidential HIV tests are provided by the Brunswick Centre in Calderdale – a charity that the Council commissions to provide HIV testing, advice and condoms to prevent HIV. This Saturday, 22 November, they have a drop-in from 2pm to 4pm (no appointment necessary) at the Resource Centre, Hall Street, Halifax, HX1 5AY.
HIV testing drop-in sessions are also provided for free at St Augustine’s Centre in Halifax, from 12 noon to 1pm on the fourth Tuesday of every month, or you can call the Brunswick Centre on 01422 341764 to make an appointment.
Calderdale Council’s Cabinet Member for Adults, Health and Social Care, Cllr Ann McAllister, said:
“In Calderdale, nearly 65% of people are diagnosed ‘late’, when their treatment should have already started. This puts them at risk of serious illness and reduced life expectancy, and increases the risk of HIV being passed on to others.
“We’re urging local men and women who have ever had unprotected sex to get checked if they haven’t already. It’s a very quick and simple test. It can mean facing difficult decisions but it’s better to know and get treatment early.”
John McKernaghan from the Brunswick Centre said:
“We provide appointments which can be out of hours and at weekends, and at a range of venues in Calderdale. People can get their results in 20 minutes, and if needed can be treated quickly at NHS sexual health services at Broad Street Plaza, Halifax.”
National HIV Testing Week runs from Saturday 22 to Sunday 30 November 2014 and is organised by HIV Prevention England (HPE), the Government-funded national HIV prevention programme.
It’s recommended that you test for HIV at least every year, or more often if you have taken a risk.
Find out more about the services available at the Brunswick Centre at www.thebrunswickcentre.org.uk(external link) or on 01422 341764.
Helen from Calderdale tested HIV positive. She stresses the importance of getting checked early and shares her story below.
Unaware I was living with HIV
I had been experiencing foot problems for 10 years. The bones in my feet were cracked and would swell out of the blue. Throughout this time, I had to have an operation every two months to reduce the pain and swelling and have it cleaned. In 2001, I was on a work trip in Belgium and the doctor there examined me to see what was wrong. After three weeks my foot was swollen again. The doctor took a blood test and gave me a call to say he had some very important news and asked if I had someone to talk to. I begged him to tell me and asked if it was cancer. He said it was something on a larger scale.
I visited the doctor and he said “I’m sorry, you are HIV positive.” I gasped with shock. That was my first reaction. I said “It can’t be true.” I told the doctor that I was married and in my country of Uganda, before you get married you have to take a test – mine was negative. I told him my husband died in an accident six years ago and since he died I have not had any sexual relations. The test I had when I was pregnant showed negative for HIV, so I was convinced the doctor was wrong.
I was tested again and after a week I got the results back. It was positive. I was told that because it had gone undetected for so long, they needed to start treatment immediately.
My doctor saved my life. If he didn’t test then I wouldn’t have known and now I would be dead. Without him I wouldn’t have seen my son grow up. You know nothing about your HIV status until a test tells you.
Hope through treatment
The treatment gave me hope. I was given three tablets twice a day, which changed to just one tablet. The hospital monitored my treatment and it was great news that I was improving. I finally had a reason to believe that I was going to wake up tomorrow and after that. I found support organisations where I made friends and was able to talk to others who were living with HIV and understood me.
People think they understand HIV
I don’t like to think of myself as judgemental. But before my HIV diagnosis, if someone I knew told me they were HIV positive I would have asked how they could have been so careless. But now I know how it can happen there are many ways that you can be innocently infected. One woman I was living with, who I classed as a close friend, knew I had HIV and unfortunately when she lost her baby she blamed me for killing her child. She thought I had passed it to her baby through washing clothes or eating together. I lied and said I had got shelter and there I was at the beginning of winter, homeless and sleeping at the train stations. That’s why it’s so important for everyone to understand HIV, how you get it and how to live with it and with those that have it.
Living with HIV
Life throws all sorts of challenges. HIV is one of the many I have had to face. There are times I feel excluded but I remember I always have a group of friends through support groups that I can talk to and share things with. I have been blessed with an accepting extended family, valuable friends and an amazing son. Living with HIV makes you appreciate life every day. I appreciate that I can see my son grow. This gift outweighs any HIV symptoms.