National HIV testing week begins today

England’s first ever National HIV testing week gets underway today all around the country, in what is a massive nationwide campaign primarily aiming to encourage people to get tested who may be at risk of HIV; People from African communities and gay or bisexual men. However, the number of people who don’t belong to either of these groups is increasing every year and it is clear that awareness needs to be raised about the potentially deadly condition.

In fact, at the end of 2010 it was estimated that there are 91,500 people with HIV in the UK and approximately a quarter (22,000) are actually unaware they have the virus. That total comprises of around 40,100 gay men and 47,000 heterosexual men and women.

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus and it is a serious health condition that attacks our bodies natural defence mechanism against infections and disease – the immune system. The Health Protection Agency released statistics back in 2010 that showed 95% of those diagnosed with HIV in the UK had picked up the virus from sexual contact. Most commonly it is the failure to use a condom during sex which is the problem although sharing infected needles, syringes or other drug paraphernalia can also increase the risk of contracting HIV.

After infection, symptoms usually take between two to six weeks to arise and they include the common flu symptoms such as fever, sore throat, tiredness, muscular pain and also you could develop a body rash. If you believe you might be at risk then you should go for a test immediately and do not delay. Putting-off necessary critical treatment can prove fatal and it is thought that a person who is diagnosed at a late stage is actually nine times more likely to die within twelve months of receiving their diagnosis compared to someone who gets tested in good time. If left untreated or properly managed, HIV then develops into AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome). This is where the body is unable to fight off life-threatening infections due to the severe damage to the immune system.

Therefore, National HIV testing week is vital to shed the stigmas attached to HIV/AIDS and encourage people to get tested if they think they might be at risk. There is no shame in coming forward to seek help and it could save your life.

The week is being pioneered by The Terrence Higgins Trust, a leading HIV/AIDS charity, in addition to HIV Prevention England (HPE). The HPE is a Department of Health- funded partnership of community organisations that aim to tackle HIV in England by targeting those most at risk of contracting the disease. Through the next seven days there will be numerous testing and awareness-raising events happening across the country.

Genevieve Edwards, director of health improvement at Terrence Higgins Trust, stressed the importance of the need for such initiatives to fight HIV. She said in a statement: “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.”

Even the London Mayor Boris Johnson took time out of his hectic schedule to give his backing to the campaign and urged people to come forward to seek help. Speaking earlier this week he said: “London is home to almost half of all people living with HIV in the UK, but a quarter of them are unaware they carry the virus. It is vital that people who might be at risk get tested, not only to reduce the risk of transmission to others, but to ensure they get the life-saving treatments that are available.”

The campaign will be focused on getting local authorities in England to promote HIV prevention schemes as a high priority. Also, work will be done to urge GPs and practice staff to keep their knowledge of HIV up-to-date so they are able to diagnose the condition more easily and recommend appropriate treatment.

HIV testing programmes will run up until Friday 30th November – the day before World Aids Day. Regular visitors to the Medical Specialists Pharmacy website will already have seen our ‘In The Press’ news section and be aware that for the last few years we have given away free condoms for a full week to any men buying erectile dysfunction products in support of World Aids Day. We are strong advocates for promoting better sexual health and already provide a wide range of medications to treat sexually transmitted infections such as herpes and chlamydia.

As mentioned earlier, the failure to wear a condom is the biggest cause of HIV being transmitted from person-to-person. Currently Medical Specialists have teamed up with the discount deal provider website ‘Mighty Deals’ to further help our patients in the current financial climate. We are currently offering a fantastic deal on Durex Performa condoms, slashing an incredible 70% off 72 individually wrapped Durex Performa condoms worth £60. For a limited time only we are able to offer this deal at an unbelievable ‘Mighty Price’ of just £18! So don’t delay and head to the deal page where you can find out exactly how to claim this incredible bargain!

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