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Terrence Higgins Trust introduces first National HIV Testing Week in England

08 November, 2012
HIV and sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust is launching England's first ever National HIV Testing Week during November 2012.

The week will run from 23 to 30 November 2012, marks the first time sexual health clinics have been invited to team up with community based HIV testing services and national and local health promotion initiatives. It is endorsed by organisations including the British HIV Association (BHIVA), and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on HIV and AIDS. A variety of testing and awareness-raising events are planned across England during the week, targeting people most at risk of HIV.


National HIV Testing Week is being co-ordinated through HIV Prevention England (HPE), a partnership of community organisations funded by the Department of Health to carry out national HIV prevention work in England among communities at an increased risk of infection. The Week forms the centrepiece of HPE's autumn campaign Think HIV, which aims to encourage Africans in England and men who have sex with men to test more regularly for the virus.


In the UK, men who have sex with men and African communities remain the groups most affected by HIV. However, more than a quarter of those with HIV in these groups are undiagnosed and therefore at risk of serious health problems. Someone who is diagnosed late, after the point at which they should have started treatment, is nine times more likely to die within a year of receiving their diagnosis than someone who tests in good time. In addition, undiagnosed HIV is a key factor driving the UK's HIV epidemic, with the majority of onward transmission coming from those who are unaware that they have the infection.


Genevieve Edwards, Director of Health Improvement at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “There is a growing consensus that reducing undiagnosed HIV would firmly put the brakes on the spread of infection in this country. We’ve already seen other parts of the world make progress in reducing rates of undiagnosed and late diagnosed HIV, and that’s without healthcare systems as comprehensive as our own. It is now fully within our grasp to halt the spread of HIV, but we need more regular testing among high-risk groups to bring down rates of undiagnosed infection. National HIV Testing Week provides a great opportunity to encourage this, and we would welcome any organisation that wants to get involved.”


Dr Adrian Palfreeman, Honorary Secretary of the British HIV Association, said: “BHIVA wholeheartedly supports National HIV Testing Week. Every week, 120 people are newly infected with HIV in the UK and most of these new infections are not diagnosed at the time. Doctors need to offer more tests and their patients will hopefully use this week’s events to remind their doctors not to overlook this treatable infection.”


Simon Kirby MP, Vice Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on HIV and AIDS, said: “National HIV Testing Week gives us an opportunity to send out the clear message that testing is the cornerstone of the fight against HIV, and that by increasing testing amongst at risk groups we can go a long way to saving lives and reducing infection rates”.


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