Fire Service raises awareness about National HIV Testing Week
This week is National HIV Testing Week (1-7 February) and Essex County Fire and Rescue Service has been raising awareness about the importance of regular testing among key populations to reduce the numbers of undiagnosed people and those diagnosed late.
While new HIV diagnoses have continued to fall, the latest data from Public Health England (PHE) reports 42% of all diagnoses were late, increasing the risk of death.
National HIV Testing Week recognises the connection between LGBT History Month and Race Equality Week because there is a legacy in both communities where HIV stigma and discrimination have left people feeling isolated and ashamed.
Matt Hill, Chair of Essex County Fire and Rescue Service’s LGBTQ+ support network, BEING, said: “Late-stage diagnosis disproportionately effects the BAME community – for both heterosexual people and gay and bisexual men. By increasing awareness, we can help more people access testing and treatment.
“The HIV and AIDS crisis in the 80s has left a legacy of stigma and ignorance in our society - with some thinking that it’s 'gone away' because it’s not in the newspapers anymore or that the risks and treatments are what they once were. But people living with HIV on effective treatment CANNOT pass on the virus. They can live just as long and healthy lives as anyone. HIV is not a gay illness - it can affect anyone. So as an ally to all people, we must educate ourselves.
HIV medication (antiretroviral treatment, or ART) works by reducing the amount of the virus in the blood to undetectable levels. This means the levels of HIV are so low that the virus cannot be passed on. This is called having an undetectable viral load or being undetectable.
Regular testing is important. Visit startswithme.org.uk to find out when to get tested, where to get tested and which tests are available, there are some you can order straight to your home at www.hivpreventionengland.org.uk/it-starts-with-me/.