Monthly Archives: November 2015

Leicester MPs pledge their support to halving late diagnoses of HIV in the city ahead of World AIDS Day

Halve It Leicester

As the world marks World AIDS day, Leicester city MPs, the council and local HIV Charities have signed up to halve the number of people being diagnosed late with the condition by 2020. Though HIV is no longer a life threatening condition, the early it is detected the easier it is to manage and get treated- which also makes the risk of passing on the virus to others much lower.

Leicester has the 6th highest rate of late diagnosis of HIV in the country.

The pledge commits to:

  • Making HIV testing easier to access and available in a variety of settings in the NHS, HIV charities and patient groups
  • Ensuring there are a variety of ways to test for HIV, including home sampling and finger prick testing;
  • Ensuring that people diagnosed with HIV are quickly referred to the right care to improve health and prevent onward transmission
  • Working together to reduce the stigma that has been associated with HIV

keithvLeicester East MP Keith Vaz said:

“I welcome the fantastic work being done by LASS to promote HIV testing and fully support the important campaign to halve the late diagnoses of the virus in Leicester, and across the world. It is vital that more and more people become aware that testing is free and simple.

Enabling greater access to information around HIV and how it is contracted, tested for and managed is critical in reducing the spread of this virus.”


Assistant city mayor Cllr Abdul Osman, executive lead for public health for Leicester said:. “HIV testing is quick free and easy. We would urge people who think that they may have contracted HIV to take a test. “It’s better to know and get treatment early. Testing and treatment remain confidential and available via the NHS”


Jenny Hand, CEO of LASS “We’re delighted to see such strong support for this campaign. At LASS we see the impact of late diagnosis of HIV. HIV isn’t a death sentence – if caught in time people can live long and healthy lives. But we need people to be tested so we can provide the appropriate treatment, care and support.”

 HIV: the facts

  • There were 103,700 people in UK were living with HIV in 2014 (Health protection agency)
  • 17% (18,100) of that figure are unaware and at risk of unknowingly passing their virus onto others
  • If diagnosed early, people living with HIV can expect a normal life expectancy
  • Once people are accessing treatment the chance of passing the virus onto others are reduced to severe minimum
  • HIV is mainly concentrated in two populations- men who have sex with men and black and African communities, but infection rates in other groups are rising
  • The vast majority of HIV infections occur through unprotected sex.

Leicester is home to 2 of the 7 Public Health England innovation projects which have been funded to support an increase in HIV testing and improvements in enabling people to test early and reduce late diagnosis. Well for Living ( LASS Social Enterprise) is co-ordinating a regional project which will take HIV testing along with other health awareness out to workplaces along the MI , targeting male workers who don’t often have time to get to health appointments.

Trade has designed a project to raise the standards of sexual health and HIV testing through establishing a Sauna online assessment project (SOAP).

Leicestershire pledges to halve late HIV diagnoses by 2020 with Liz Kendall, Jon Ashworth & Keith Vaz

Halve It Leicester

HIV Test Week is nearly over, and you’ll be forgiven if you think that HIV testing is just for one week since most of its publicity lasts for only a week in November leading up to the celebrated World AIDS Day on December 1st every year.

While HIV Test Week draws attention to the need to get tested for HIV, World AIDS Day is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died.

This morning, Leicester City Council together with local MPs; Liz Kendall, Jon Ashworth and Keith Vaz united with LASS, Trade and other voluntary sector partners to sign the ‘Halve It pledge’.

The national pledge commits Leicestershire to halve late HIV diagnoses by 2020.


The sooner HIV is diagnosed, the sooner appropriate care can begin. Thanks to anti-retroviral combination therapy, the life expectancy of someone living with HIV has increased markedly. Today, an individual diagnosed with HIV at the age of 35 years, with prompt access to effective treatment, can expect to live a normal life span.

HIV continues to be a serious health condition in the UK.  Here are some of the recent statistics:

  • An estimated 103,700 people are living with HIV in the UK.
  • Of these, around 17 per cent are undiagnosed and do not know about their HIV infection.
  • There were 6,151 new HIV diagnoses in 2014.
  • Two-fifths (40 per cent) of people diagnosed with HIV in 2014 were diagnosed late, after they should have already started treatment.
  • Just over one in four people (27 per cent) living with diagnosed HIV is aged 50 years or over.
  • There has been a 2 per cent decrease in testing at sexual health clinics over the last year but opportunities to test in the community and at GPs and get a home sampling kit have increased.

Around 17% of people who have HIV don’t realise they have it, and it’s very likely that untreated HIV will be passed to other people.  That’s why it’s important to get tested so we can halve the amount of people who remain undiagnosed, (why not have a HIV test)?

Halve It ( is a coalition of national experts determined to tackle the continued public health challenges posed by HIV. Their goals are to halve the proportion of people diagnosed late with HIV and to halve the proportion of people living with undiagnosed HIV.

The Halve It campaign calls upon all levels of government and their agencies to ensure that HIV is a public health priority both locally and nationally, they are asking the government to:

  • Fully implement National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) public health guidance on HIV testing.
  • Support the delivery of the Public Health Outcomes Framework (PHOF) by ensuring that local health organisations are equipped to realise the benefits of early detection of HIV.
  • Offer incentives to test for HIV in a variety of healthcare settings, for example through the Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF) and Commissioning for Quality and Innovation (CQUIN) frameworks.
  • Ensure that people diagnosed with HIV have access to any retroviral therapies (ARTs) to prevent onward transmission in line with the joint recommendations of the Expert Advisory Group on AIDS (EAGA) and the British HIV Association (BHIVA).
  • Ensure quality-assured (ie CE marked) self-testing kits for HIV when available, are integrated into local HIV testing strategies along with home sampling kits.

To find out more about the campaign download their position paper here

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The fight goes on against HIV

HIV Stigma

The progress made in the treatment of HIV infection in recent years cannot be overstated. What was once a death sentence is now treatable. A HIV patient beginning treatment today can hope to have to a normal life expectancy, albeit one dependent on continuous medical treatment. Those with undetectable viral loads have almost no chance of transmitting infection, nor does infection prevent people going on to have children.

Story via The Pharmaceutical Journal

You would find it hard to believe therefore that this month the headline ‘Hollywood HIV panic’ ran in the UK’s biggest circulation tabloid The Sun in reference to an actor being diagnosed with HIV. Charlie Sheen announced soon after that he has been living with HIV for the past four years. The worst part about the illness, said Sheen, is the shame that comes with it. People do not take action or get help because of the stigma, he added.

In the West, you could have been forgiven for thinking we had grown to accept people living with HIV. Many individuals who have challenged the early misconceptions about HIV/AIDS and many more people who have learnt to embrace their status and campaign for greater public acceptance have done much to reduce the stigma of disease and educate the public about HIV infection.

Yet stigmatisation of people living with HIV remains a major problem worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) cites fear of stigma and discrimination as the main reason why people are reluctant to get tested, disclose their HIV status and take antiretroviral drugs.

Some national governments still deny the existence of HIV, dismissing it as a disease of the West confined to those who are sexually deviant. It is in these countries where those living with the virus will continue to die unnecessarily.

Stigma creates a culture of fear, and this fear could lead to people refusing to get tested, begin treatment and stop the virus from spreading further.

Nonetheless, in the past few years great progress has been made in the battle against the HIV epidemic. Previously, diagnosing HIV infection was cumbersome and slow. The standard medical practice was to hold off initiating treatment until a patient’s CD4 cell count dropped to a level where they were at higher risk of developing AIDS. Much attention is now directed at identifying those at risk and swiftly diagnosing those infected with the virus, and there is growing evidence that those diagnosed should be started on treatment as soon as possible. For example, the START trial, carried out in 35 countries, was stopped over a year early after interim results showed that the health benefits of starting antiretroviral drugs immediately, regardless of CD4 cell counts, outweighed the potential risk to health. The WHO recommends that anyone infected with HIV should begin antiretroviral treatment as soon as possible after diagnosis.

The use of treatment as prevention (TasP) — a HIV prevention method that uses antiretroviral treatment (ART) to decrease the risk of HIV transmission — continues to grow. In 2011, the landmark study HPTN 052 showed early initiation of antiretroviral (ARV) treatment in those with a CD4+ cell count between 350 and 550 for the HIV-infected partner in a serodiscordant couple reduced HIV transmission to the HIV-negative partner by 96%.

Moreover, this year the WHO recommended that pre-exposure prophylaxis (PreP) — giving ARVs to protect people from HIV before potential exposure — should be offered to all those who are at substantial risk of HIV infection (previously, it was recommended that only certain affected populations, such as sex workers, men who have sex with men (MSM) and people who inject drugs, received PreP).

Earlier in 2015, the world exceeded the AIDS targets of Millennium Development Goal 6 — halting and reversing the spread of HIV, with new HIV infections falling by 35% and AIDS-related deaths decreasing by 41%.

Meanwhile, new ARTs continue to enter the market and new formulations are being researched.

All of these indicate that the fight against HIV and AIDS is heading in the right direction in terms of drug treatment and research. However, if further progress is to be made, this will depend on identifying everyone who has the virus, which continues to be a challenge — and stigma plays a large part in this.

So although we have come a long way, there is still more to do, particularly in terms of educating people and changing their attitudes towards HIV, if we are to ever see the last of this virus.

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World Health Organisation records highest-ever number of new HIV cases in Europe

by Tom Robson

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said yesterday that in 2014 it had recorded the highest number of new HIV cases in its European Region, which also includes Central Asia, since the start of reporting in the 1980s.

Story via Reuters


WHO and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said in a statement that more than 142,000 people in WHO’s European Region were diagnosed with HIV last year with the increase coming from its eastern sector which comprises 15 countries including Russia, Ukraine and Central Asia.

The statement followed publication on Tuesday of findings by the United Nations AIDS programme which showed that new HIV infections overall had fallen by 35 percent since the peak of the three-decade-old pandemic in 2000.

“Heterosexual transmission is responsible for the increase in eastern Europe, and transmission through drug injection remains substantial,” the joint statement by the WHO and ECDC said.

ECDC spokeswoman Caroline Daamen said “eastern Europe” referred to the eastern part of WHO’s European Region, where the organisations said the number of new HIV cases had more than doubled in the past decade.

Apart from Russia, Ukraine and Central Asia, this region also includes countries of the Transcaucasus.

“In the EU and the EEA, sex between men is the predominant mode of HIV transmission. Two in three new HIV infections are among native-born Europeans,” the organisations said.

In the European Union generally, the number of people diagnosed with HIV was roughly unchanged over the past decade, ECDC’s Daamen said.

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Events highlight HIV testing week

A SERIES of events taking place across Leicester will help encourage people to get an HIV test.

The events are being held to mark HIV Testing Week (21-28 November), in the run-up to World Aids Day on Tuesday December 1.

In addition, Leicester City Council, voluntary sector partners and MPs will be signing the ‘halve it pledge’ this week.   The national pledge commits the city to halve late HIV diagnoses by 2020. It will do this by:

• Making HIV testing easier to access and available in a variety of settings in the NHS, HIV charities and patient groups;
• Ensuring there are a variety of ways to test for HIV, including home sampling and finger prick testing;
• Ensuring that people diagnosed with HIV are quickly referred to the right care to improve health and prevent onward transmission;
• Working together to reduce the stigma that has been associated with HIV.

To mark HIV Testing Week, many organisations across the city are offering rapid HIV testing. These are free, drop-in testing sessions, with results available quickly, sometimes the same day.

Leicestershire Aids Support Service (LASS) will be holding rapid testing sessions each day this week until Thursday, from 9.30am until 4.30pm and Friday 9.30am until 2.30pm. The service is based at 53 Regent Road.

TRADE sexual health charity will be offering a drop-in service for rapid HIV testing at their offices at floor 2, 27 Bowling Green Street, until Friday this week, between 10am until 6pm each day. They will also be offering testing on Saturday, between 10am and 4pm.

Assistant city mayor Cllr Abdul Osman is executive lead for public health for Leicester. He said: “Taking an HIV test is really important, especially if you belong to a high-risk group.

“HIV testing is quick free and easy. We would urge people who think that they may have contracted HIV to take a test.

“It’s better to know and get treatment early. Testing and treatment remain confidential and available via the NHS.

“We are pleased to be working with these specialist organisations to raise awareness of the sexual health services that we offer in the city.“

A service of reflection to mark World Aids Day 2015 will take place at St Margaret’s Church on Saturday 28th November, between noon and 12:45pm.

TRADE will also be hosting an interactive exhibition at their offices to celebrate World AIDS Day on Tuesday 1st December, between 5pm and 9pm.

For more details, visit the sexual health page at

How schools are getting it wrong on HIV


Leo found out he was HIV positive when he was 12. A few months later, in a personal, social and health education lesson, the teacher was discussing HIV and Aids: “And some of the pupils were joking around, and the teacher said: ‘Guys, it’s not funny! If you have HIV, you don’t have long to live. If you have HIV, you’re going to die.’”

Post via The Guardian


Leo remembers trying to remain composed, but he couldn’t: what he’d heard was so shocking, so unexpected. His teacher noticed the tears running down his face, took him out of the classroom and asked: “What’s wrong?” And Leo said: “Is that what’s going to happen to me, sir? I’m HIV positive.”

The truth is that Leo isn’t, and never was, going to die. Like most of the 1,000 or so school-age children in the UK who are HIV positive, his condition is carefully monitored and well managed by drugs. What he heard from his teacher that day was incorrect: misinformation from someone in a trusted position who a pupil would usually expect to be correct.

Leo’s tale is one of many examples of how wrong schools often get it where HIV is concerned. Students have been humiliated and shocked in their own schools, and some are reported to have been excluded by their school on disclosure of their HIV status.

As well as causing distress to affected pupils, teachers’ misconceptions – when passed on to other children – ensure a new generation is, in turn, misinformed. All of which explains why the Children’s HIV Association (Chiva) is reissuing guidelines for schools this week, and why its projects manager, Magda Conway, says all teachers need to become much more aware of the issues around pupils who are HIV positive or who are affected by HIV through someone close to them. “Teachers aren’t a bad lot, we don’t want to vilify them, but many of them are very ill informed about this,” says Conway. One survey carried out by Chiva last year found that fewer than half of teachers were aware that mother-to-child transmission is the most common route of infection to children, and more than 50% believed HIV could be transmitted via spitting or biting.

“The problem is that many of them got their information about HIV from the notorious Aids campaign of the 1980s – the ‘Don’t die of ignorance’ campaign,” says Conway. That campaign, run at saturation levels by the Department of Health, featured crumbling mountains and a falling tombstone, and a voiceover that spoke of the virus as “a threat to us all”, the cause of “a deadly disease [with] no known cure”.

“Science has come on in leaps and bounds since then – today it’s a manageable health condition, and it needs to be treated that way. Too many teachers still base what they know on the ‘Don’t die of ignorance’ campaign.”

She says schools need to ensure that a pupil who discloses their HIV diagnosis will be sensitively and professionally supported. “If teachers become aware that a child in school is living with HIV, they need to understand that there is no risk to anyone else, and that confidentiality should be respected.” The revised guidelines spell out the most misunderstood key facts, including the crucial issue that HIV cannot be passed on through normal play and normal childhood interactions.

“No one has ever contracted HIV in school, period,” says Conway. “A pupil or a teacher living with HIV poses no risk whatsoever to the school community.”

Those with HIV, the guidelines spell out, can have every expectation of living long and happy lives. And confidentiality is essential to people living with HIV, due to the stigma that remains in society around the virus.

In an attempt to step up awareness, Chiva took Leo and a group of other HIV-positive young people to a meeting at Westminster last week, where they shared their stories with MPs and peers.

Cece, 17, told how her boyfriend found out she was HIV positive and started spreading the story around the school. “I stopped taking my meds because I thought that would be a way of forgetting about it – everything seemed so awful,” she says. “When you’re HIV positive you live a double life, and at some point it’s going to cross over.” And what happened next? “You really find out who your friends are: a group of my friends got the kids together who knew and said, stop spreading these stories. But the point is that it should have been the teachers who did that, not the children.”

Sometimes the ignorance of teachers puts their better-informed pupils into a difficult situation, as happened to another pupil, Evie. “We were in a science lesson and the teacher was asked, how is the HIV virus passed on? And the teacher said, you can get it from kissing someone. And I knew, of course, that this wasn’t true, but I wasn’t able to put the teacher right because how could I have explained how I knew without disclosing my own HIV status, which it wouldn’t have been appropriate to do?”

As heartbreaking as Leo’s experience was that of Shona, who, like Leo, knew she was HIV positive but hadn’t disclosed it to her school. “I was in a humanities class and the teacher started going on about what HIV meant. She said if you have it, your life expectancy is probably going to be about 10 years. And I was in year 9 so about 13 at the time, and it was shocking and confusing. I thought, does that mean I’ll only live another 10 years? It wasn’t what I’d been told, but when you hear a teacher saying something like that, it makes you doubt what you thought you knew.”

Other youngsters told stories about overreaction on the part of their teachers when their status was disclosed. One boy talked of feeling alarm bells were ringing when he had a nose bleed; a girl spoke about how she was offered a nurse to talk to daily. “I said, I don’t need to talk to a nurse every day! I see enough nurses. I just want a normal life.”

The lack of good management for HIV-positive pupils means they sometimes miss out on, for example, school trips – as happened to Cece. “I wanted to go on a skiing trip to Austria when I was in year 8. It was 10 days away, and as soon as I told my mum she was like, how on earth can you do that? You have to take your medicines, you can’t go abroad.” Cece didn’t go on the trip. “But why should I have missed out? The truth is I could easily have gone on that trip if there had been proper support for me in the school.”

What schools need to provide, says Conway, is the potential for a pupil who is HIV positive to tell one trusted person. “You get some schools where it’s discovered that a pupil is HIV positive and there’s a kneejerk reaction based on ignorance. I’ve heard of pupils even being excluded – that happened as recently as 2013,” says Conway. In that instance it was a third party, a community worker, who disclosed the pupil’s HIV status to the school, which then took advice from a national teaching organisation – advice that turned out to be 25 years out of date. At another school she was told about, says Conway, the headteacher told an assembly that a pupil was HIV positive and was being excluded.

The National Association of Head Teachers is backing the Chiva campaign. Its president, Tony Draper, says schools need to make themselves safe places for children who are HIV positive. “They need to ensure that pupils can disclose their status to one person, and no one else needs to know,” he says. “At the moment, pupils are missing school for medical appointments without being able to tell anyone why they’re away. That needs to change.”

The truth is, says Conway, that the treatment of pupils with HIV should be the same as the treatment for any other pupil: there are no special requirements, except the need for one person they can feel confident in disclosing their status to, should they choose to. “The biggest thing we’re fighting is the stigma that surrounds HIV, and the biggest problem for pupils who live with HIV isn’t physical health issues, it’s mental health issues. Children who are HIV positive are more likely to have mental health problems, more likely to self-harm, and more likely to take their own lives. And that’s all connected to the pressures that go with being HIV positive – and that’s what we want schools to help change.”

All children’s names have been changed

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What’s stopping YOU from having a HIV test?


  • Have you ever had sex without a condom?

  • Have you ever had a HIV test?

Two simple questions, two simple answers.

If you’ve ever had sex without a condom and never had a HIV test, how do you know you’re HIV negative?  That’s the drive behind National HIV Test week which commenced today.

Regular readers of this blog should know what HIV is all about since it’s what we write and share about but what about people who know very little about HIV and why it’s important to get tested?

Put simply, HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) gradually attacks your immune system, which is your body’s natural defence against illness.  If you were to become infected with HIV, you’ll find it harder to fight off infections and diseases.  It’s a progressive disease and unfortunately, it’s incurable but if caught early and given the right treatment, you’ll be fine.  Although you’ll need to make sure you watch your health and stay in touch with your doctor.

A lot of people think HIV is a death sentence, that’s simply not true (click this link to find out why) but if left untreated it will cause you some problems so it’s best to get tested for HIV at least once in your life, just to be sure.  There are many others who test regularly for HIV to keep their health in check.

About a quarter of people who have HIV don’t realise they have it, and it’s very likely that untreated HIV will be passed to other people.  That’s why we’re inviting YOU and everyone (in Leicestershire) who reads this post to have a HIV test.  If you can visit us, great – we’ll be happy to give you a confidential test or if you prefer to test confidentially at home, that’s ok too!

This National HIV Testing Week think about the best HIV testing option for you.

We’re can’t tell you which is the right one, because that’s down to your personal preference.  If you’d like to visit us, head on down to 53 Regent Road, Leicester. LE1 6YF (Here’s a map) or call us on 0116 2559995.

Our Rapid HIV Test will provide your results within 60 seconds from a simple finger prick test!  We use the Insti HIV test produced by BioLytical laboratories. The test is 99.96% accurate from 90 days after  contact for detecting HIV 1 and 2 antibodies.

If you prefer to test privately, in your own home, click this link for a home sampling kit.  It’s easy to home sample, simply drop a small amount of blood into a vile and post it off to be tested.  You’ll get the results in a couple of weeks.  This service is only for people who live in Leicestershire.

Not from Leicestershire? – No problem those lovely people at NAM have built a HIV test finder service.  Head on over to: to find out where you nearest HIV test centre is.

So, you have all the information you need to have a HIV test, what’s stopping you from having one?

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