Tag Archives: condoms

We really can beat HIV!

In October 2017, Public Health England reported an 18% drop in the numbers of people diagnosed with HIV in 2016 – this includes 18% fewer diagnoses among people of black African ethnicity compared to 2015.

This was the first time that we’ve had such a significant drop and it is was all down to a combination of things we can all do to make a difference.

New ways to stop the spread of HIV

The HIV epidemic started more than 30 years ago but recently there have been some big changes which we want to share with you and make sure everyone knows about. The number of HIV infections is starting to come down in some areas and this is down to a combined approach to stopping HIV. It’s no longer JUST about condoms, HIV treatment is now a part of our armoury against HIV – and part of protected sex.

Here’s how:

1) Treatment as Prevention (TasP)

If someone is on effective HIV treatment and has an ‘undetectable viral load’ they cannot pass on HIV. (The viral load is the amount of HIV measured in a blood test – most clinics in the UK classify undetectable as being below 20 copies/ml.)

We are saying this based on findings from the PARTNER study which looked at 888 gay and straight couples (and 58,000 sex acts) where one partner was HIV positive and on effective treatment and one was HIV negative. Results found that where the HIV positive partner had an undetectable viral load, there were no cases of HIV transmission whether they had anal or vaginal sex without a condom. It can take up to six months from starting treatment to become undetectable.

What this means: This is exciting news as it means treatment is a new way to stop the spread of HIV. Don’t forget though that sex without a condom still means you can get or pass on another sexually transmitted infection (STI) and can result in a pregnancy.

2) Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP)

PrEP is a course of HIV drugs taken by an HIV negative person who is at risk of getting HIV to lower their chance of becoming infected. When taken correctly, PrEP significantly reduces the chances of becoming HIV positive.

In England PrEP is not currently available on the NHS routinely, although 10,000 people will be taking it as part of the IMPACT trial, which started this autumn. In Scotland and Wales PrEP is available on the NHS.

What this means: If you are likely to be exposed to HIV, PrEP is another way to protect yourself.

3) Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP)

PEP is a month-long course of HIV medication taken by an HIV negative person after possible exposure to reduce the chance of getting HIV. When started in time (within 72 hours, but within 24 hours is best) PEP can stop HIV infection after sex without a condom (or other exposure) with someone who is infectious – but it does not work every time.

What this means: PEP is the third way HIV treatment can be used to protect yourself, a doctor will assess whether you will be eligible or not depending on the risk taken.

Testing and treatment saves lives

In terms of stopping HIV this new information is monumental and the facts show that people power can dramatically reduce HIV transmissions. Regular testing means more people with HIV will be diagnosed and taking treatment – so they will be less likely to become ill and less likely to pass on HIV.

Despite the good news of a drop in HIV rates, 54% of newly diagnosed black African people were diagnosed late in 2016, which means they will have an increased risk of developing an AIDS-defining illness. The British HIV Association (BHIVA) recommends everyone with HIV starts treatment when they are diagnosed. This is because a study called START found that starting straight away significantly reduced people’s chances of developing AIDS-related illnesses.

So the problem we have is that although lots of us are being diagnosed and getting onto treatment in time, an even bigger proportion are finding out they have HIV at a point where their immune systems have been damaged. Regular testing is the linchpin of reducing late diagnoses and keeping people well.

Additionally, people are extremely infectious when they are first infected with HIV which is why early diagnosis is so important – if you are on effective treatment and have an undetectable viral load you cannot pass on HIV.

The Simple Science

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It was identified in the early 1980s and belongs to a group of viruses called retroviruses.

HIV uses your CD4 cells to reproduce, destroying them in the process. These are important cells which co-ordinate your immune system to fight off illnesses and infections. As the number declines, you may not have enough to keep your immune system working properly. At the same time the amount of HIV in your body (the ‘viral load’) will usually increase.

Without treatment your immune system will not be able to work properly and protect you from ‘opportunistic infections’.

Effective treatment will mean your CD4 count increases and your viral load decreases – hopefully to ‘undetectable’ levels.

The viral load test shows how much HIV is in your body by measuring how many particles of HIV are in a blood sample. The results are given as the number of ‘copies’ of HIV per millilitre of blood – for example 200 copies/ml.

An ‘undetectable’ viral load does not mean there is no HIV present – HIV is still there but in levels too low for the laboratory test to pick up. Different laboratories may have different cut off points when classifying an undetectable viral load, however most clinics in the UK classify undetectable as being below 20 copies/ml.

Modern HIV treatment means that many people with HIV are living long, healthy lives and if you’re taking HIV medication and have an undetectable viral load you cannot pass on HIV.

Getting tested

Our Rapid HIV testing service is available Monday-Friday between 9am – 4pm.  You do not need an appointment.

The test is performed at our office on Regent Road, Leicester by qualified and experienced HIV testers.  The process usually takes around 20 minutes.

The test is free to ‘at risk groups’ and always confidential.  If you’re not at risk, we can refer you to an alternative service who will be able to provide you with a free HIV test.  You can still test with us for £20 or you may prefer a free Home Sampling kit or buy a Home Testing kit from BioSure for £29.95.  You can also find details of other testing services by clicking here.

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Lorry themed condoms tackle India HIV Transmission & M1 Healthy Hub Roadshow

In India, it is estimated two million lorry drivers regularly use sex workers – but barely 10% of truckers are using condoms. – Story via BBC News

Health officials say there is a strong correlation between HIV infections and the routes used by truckers.

To help raise awareness, lorry-themed condoms are being sold. The colourful packaging of the Dipper brand has been designed to replicate the bright designs of India’s trucks, and 45,000 packets were sold out in just a few days.

This project is not unsimilar to the Healthy Hub Roadshow, an initiative set up by LASS CEO Jenny Hand and Holistic Practitioner Jacqui Tillyard together with  six HIV and Sexual Health Organisations located along the M1 corridor between Luton and Nottingham.

Healthy Hub Roadshow Staff and Volunteers

Healthy Hub Roadshow Staff and Volunteers (© Robson:2016)

The main aim was to raise awareness for Safer Sex, HIV testing, AIDS prevention and condom distribution.  The Roadshow also offered a range of other related health tests and information including diabetes blood sugar level test, BMI, cholesterol and Blood pressure tests to encourage healthier lifestyles.

The roadshow is now closed, however you can find valuable information online at http://healthyhubroadshow.co.uk 

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Romance Novels Influence Whether Women Use Condoms

50Shades

The bodice-ripper genre has never been known for its realism, and people have often criticized it for setting impossible standards for relationships. But now, one study also seems to indicate that romance novels set a bad example when it comes to safe sex. Here’s how pulp romances could be a health risk.

Part of the point of fiction is that it cuts out part of reality. In fiction, people spend a lot of time fighting monsters, running from the law, or just musing about the meaning of life. They spend almost no time brushing their teeth. This lack of tooth brushing isn’t meant to influence the public’s attitude towards oral hygiene, and probably has no affect on tooth retention among readers.

But sometimes omission of mundane details can be equated with disapproval. A analysis done in 2000 noted that few romance novels included scenes in which the characters use condoms, despite many novels including scene in which two relative strangers get swept off their feet and have sex in a barn, or the cabin of a ship during a storm, or a self-made billionaire’s private sex dungeon.

A group of researchers at Northwestern University decided to see whether this disregard for sex ed among romance novel characters influenced women’s attitudes towards condoms. After interviewing women as to their reading habits, the researchers asked them about their views on condoms, and whether they intended to use them in the future. Results were disheartening, but not surprising. Women who read a lot of romance novels didn’t like the idea of condoms. Compared to women who did not read a lot of romance, romance-readers were relatively disinclined to use condoms in the future.

A second study presented romance readers with a library that was packed with the small percentage of romance novels that included the use of condoms by the characters. The women later revealed, in interviews, that after reading the safe sex romances their outlook on condoms was more favorable, and that they were slightly more likely to use condoms in future.

Although the year 2000 is hardly the dark ages, it has been 15 years, and a lot of pulp has to have been through the printing press since then. The most well-known romance series of the last decade, Twilight, quite famously has a couple that doesn’t use condoms – and they nearly incur a vampire war. But perhaps other, lesser-known romances include a little more safe sex scenes. What do you say, romance readers? Are more romantic novels including condoms in their love scenes these days?

Want the original research? Visit: The Relationship Between Reading Romance Novels and Safe Sex Behavior

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Use Your iPhone or iPad to Practice Safe Sex

No, we’re not suggesting you use your iOS device to practice safe sex but did you know you can use it to locate places where you can get condoms?

MTV Staying Alive and iCondom are asking everyone to join them in the fight to help prevent the transmission of HIV and other STIs. Together they are creating the world’s largest condom distribution map for iPhone, the first user-generated map of its kind.

iCondom is the only international app for iPhone that locates condom dispensers nearest to you and shows you their locations on a map. You can rate and comment on dispensers so that others will have up-to-date information on the quality of the dispenser.  The app is free and available from the app store now!

Together, we can make it easier for people to avoid putting themselves and others at risk.


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