Tag Archives: HIV test

The Truth About HIV

WATCH: Thursday BBC1 at 9pm

HIV has claimed around 35 million lives worldwide. But now, as Dr Chris van Tulleken reveals, cutting-edge science can keep the virus at bay or even prevent infection altogether. As a new preventative treatment called PrEP is rolled out on the NHS in Scotland, and new trials are announced in England and Wales, HIV is under control, in Britain at least, but only when it can be detected and the treatment with antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) can begin.

Chris meets a woman whose husband died without ever knowing he had the condition, by which time he had infected her too. But Chris also finds out how ‘viral loads’ can now be reduced to allow patients to lead healthy lives – and even prevent them infecting anyone else.

Chris meets HRH Prince Harry for an interview at the Mildmay Hospital, an HIV hospital made famous by Diana, Princess of Wales, where Chris also meets a patient whose undetected HIV led to serious brain damage.

Prince Harry visited LASS in March this year, during his visit he took time to reflect on the changes for people living with HIV and unveiled a plaque marking the start of LASS’s 30th year. He was able to look at the history of LASS and viewed the panels that were launched by Princess Diana when she visited LASS in 1991.

HRH Prince Harry unveils a unveiled a plaque marking the start of LASS’s 30th year. With Evernice Tirivanhu, Jenny Hand & David Rowlands

Partner organisations joined LASS in a training session led by Juliet Kisob and Sadiya Mohamed.  They looked at the role of community HIV testing in encouraging people to know their HIV status and to help reduce late diagnosis.  They were joined by Prince Harry for workshops where they used a case study to look at how critical partnerships are to breaking down stigma and to identify new places for LASS to test in our 30th year. In Leicester 59% of patients are diagnosed late, which is 20% higher than the national average.

In the BBC documentary, airing on Thursday evening,  Dr van Tulleken visits a clinic in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, where tens of thousands are still dying with seven out of ten of people infected worldwide living in sub-Saharan Africa,

He meets an schoolgirl living with HIV and realises that local attitudes to testing are still leading to unnecessary deaths. But Chris also meets clinicians taking mass testing out to the villages and meets a man whose life was saved as a result.

Back in the UK, talk of a cure may be premature, but Chris finds out more about the controversy around the rollout of PrEP which, when taken daily, can prevent someone becoming infected in the first place.

Why Take a HIV Test?

Some people think taking a HIV testing is scary, but honestly it shouldn’t be. The condition is entirely manageable.  If you test positive, early detection, monitoring and effective treatment means that your life can largely carry on as before.

Incredible medical progress has been made in the last 20 years and HIV treatment is now very effective. If you are diagnosed with HIV before it has damaged your body and you are put on effective treatment, you can expect to live as long as anyone else.

HIV treatment aims to lower the amount of HIV in the body to undetectable levels. Global research, known as the PARTNER study, has found that HIV cannot be passed on when the virus is undetectable. In other words, if someone is on effective HIV treatment, it is extremely unlikely that he or she will pass on HIV to anyone else.

This is a massive breakthrough. It means that if everyone with HIV were on effective treatment, we could finally stop the spread of HIV. Until then, it is essential to use condoms to protect yourself.

There are many ways you can test for HIV, you can visit LASS for a free, confidential rapid HIV test, you can sample your own blood/saliva and send it to a laboratory for the results which are then sent back to you (free) or you may wish to purchase a test which gives you a diagnosis in the comfort in your own home.  More information on HIV testing at LASS, at home, elsewhere in Leicester/shire and testing locations around the UK are available online here: http://www.lass.org.uk/hiv-testing/

 

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Why we shouldn’t be scared of ‘The Test’

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 14:  Prince Harry has blood taken by Specialist Psychotherapist Robert Palmer as he takes an HIV test during a visit to Burrell Street Sexual Health Clinic on July 14, 2016 in London, England. Prince Harry was visiting the clinic, run by Guy's and St Thomas NHS Foundation to promote the importance of getting tested for HIV and other STDs.  (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

Prince Harry takes a HIV test during a visit to Burrell Street Sexual Health Clinic.  Prince Harry was visiting the clinic to promote the importance of getting tested for HIV.  (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images).  Click here to read about Harry’s fight against HIV and his mother, Princess Diana’s Visit to LASS in November 1991. 

Some people think taking a HIV test is scary, but honestly it shouldn’t be. The condition is entirely manageable.  If you test positive, early detection, monitoring and effective treatment means that your life can largely carry on as before.

Incredible medical progress has been made in the last 20 years and HIV treatment is now very effective. If you are diagnosed with HIV before it has damaged your body and you are put on effective treatment, you can expect to live as long as anyone else.

HIV treatment aims to lower the amount of HIV in the body to undetectable levels. Global research, known as the PARTNER study, has found that HIV cannot be passed on when the virus is undetectable. In other words, if someone is on effective HIV treatment, it is extremely unlikely that he or she will pass on HIV to anyone else.

This is a massive breakthrough. It means that if everyone with HIV were on effective treatment, we could finally stop the spread of HIV. Until then, it is essential to use condoms to protect yourself.

For some people the idea of being tested for HIV is as simple as making a note in a calendar, an entry which sits comfortably beneath a dentist appointment and above a mother’s birthday. For others, the idea of making that appointment, or taking that long walk to the clinic, is one of the most nerve-wracking experiences they can imagine. However, in an age where the numbers of people diagnosed with HIV are increasing, has our natural fear of the unknown become a luxury we simply can’t afford?

Many years ago it was a scary disease. We called it AIDS and it became a name associated with sin and death. The massive number of infections, particularly in the gay community, were staggering, and as the death toll slowly crept up, nations across the world panicked. It’s impossible for any society to come through such a dark time and emerge unscathed, and so the fear of a silent killer left a scar on our cultural memory which has never really healed, and even in 2016, the mere mention of HIV and AIDS still has a way of stopping conversations.

Thankfully, things have changed since then and treatment for HIV is better now than it has ever been. People who have the condition are now finding that their lives have not changed completely, and they are still able to live as long and do all the same things they could before. It’s true that they now have a few additional concerns to think about but with the help of medication, HIV is now manageable.

HIV is no longer the death sentence it used to be and people are able to live, healthy and happy lives like they did before. However, this is thanks to the amazing progress we have made in treating the condition and we can only begin to do that when we make the decision to get tested and keep on top of our health. Late HIV diagnosis in Leicester is 13.8% higher than the average for England.  It’s a scary prospect to some and no one takes that for granted, but by taking the chance to be tested, you could be buying yourself years of life.

GET A HIV TEST AT LASS

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.  If you’re unsure, or would like to speak to someone about HIV Testing, please call us on 0116 2559995 or pop in and see us.

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.

Other places which can test for HIV

SHACC (Sexual Health and Contraceptive Clinic) in Leicester.  They offer information, advice and screening for Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) as well as HIV in GP settings.  For more information or to book an appointment Phone 0800 75 66 277 or visit shacc.co.uk

St Peters GU Medicine Clinic provide Free, confidential services including STI testing including HIV tests along with A full range of contraception including Post Exposure HIV Prophylaxis – PEP/PEPSE Tel: 0300 124 0102 or 0800 318 908 or visit them online at leicestersexualhealth.nhs.uk

Trade Sexual Health offers a rapid HIV testing service for LGB&T individuals.  Contact them on 0116 2541747 or visittradesexualhealth.com for more information.

There are lots of places where you can get a HIV test if you’re unable to use services in Leicester or Leicestershire.  Visit NAM, they have an online portal which can help you find a service in your area.

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HIV effort let down by test shortages, says WHO

The Most Revd Ephraim S Fajutagana, Supreme Bishop of the Philippine Independent Church, undergoes an HIV test as part of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines public campaign to remove the stigma associated with HIV/Aids.

The Most Revd Ephraim S Fajutagana, Supreme Bishop of the Philippine Independent Church, undergoes an HIV test as part of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines public campaign to remove the stigma associated with HIV/Aids.

A shortage of HIV testing could undermine global efforts to diagnose and treat people with the infection, warn experts from the World Health Organization.  They looked at responses to annual surveys that the WHO had sent to 127 countries between 2012 and 2014 asking about capacity and usage of blood tests that check HIV status and health.

Story via BBC
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They found worrying gaps in provision. They warn that United Nation targets for HIV could be missed as a result.

The targets say that by 2020, 90% of all people living with HIV should know their HIV status, 90% of those diagnosed should receive antiretroviral therapy and 90% of these treated patients should have “durable viral suppression” (a measure of effective treatment).

Laboratory testing is vital to meet and monitor these aims.

But Vincent Habiyambere and his colleagues say in the journal PLoS Medicine that some low and middle-income countries, including African countries where the HIV burden is high, are not yet geared up for the challenge.

The surveys were sent to:

  • all 47 countries in the WHO African Region
  • 33 countries in the WHO Region of the Americas
  • all 21 countries in the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region
  • eight high-burden HIV countries in the WHO European Region
  • all 11 countries in the WHO South-East Asia Region
  • seven high-burden HIV countries in the WHO Western Pacific Region

Over the three survey years, 55 (43%) countries responded to all three surveys, 35 (28%) to two surveys, 25 (20%) to one survey, and nine (7%) responded to none of the three surveys.

Testing provision did improve over the years, but shortfalls remained in some parts of the world.

Worrying gaps

Reasons for the gaps in provision included lack of reagents, equipment not being installed or maintained properly and inadequate or absent staff training. In some laboratories, machines were not serviced regularly. In others, machines broke down and were not covered by contracts to be serviced or fixed.

Dr Habiyambere and his team say: “A national laboratory strategic plan to strengthen services must be developed, implemented, and monitored by governments and their national and international partners.

“The focus of the international community, to ensure optimal use of laboratory technologies, should be on those countries where interventions for scaling up access to HIV diagnostic technologies are most needed.”

They acknowledge that they did not look at private sector testing and that some countries might rely more heavily on this than others.

In an accompanying editorial, HIV experts Peter Kilmarx and Raiva Simbi say the findings show some programmes may have been “overly focused” on buying equipment without planning for how it would be used and maintained.

In Zimbabwe, for example, only 5.6% of HIV patients on drug treatment in 2015 received regular blood checks to monitor their viral load – far fewer than the goal of 21%.  This was largely down to problems with resource mobilisation and specimen transport as well as equipment procurement, they say.

“Strong leadership, resources, planning, and management are needed to scale up laboratory services,” they conclude.

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Hetrosexual? – HIV Testing is for YOU too!

Prince Harry should be commended for taking an HIV finger-prick test live at a sexual health centre, part of Guy’s and St Thomas’s hospital in London. If the results of such a test were positive, the patient’s blood would be sent for further testing. Harry’s test (negative – or you’d probably already have heard about it, or never heard about it, as the case may be) was done to raise awareness about the number of people in Britain who are unaware that they’re HIV-positive (estimated at 11,000).

Article via 
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For those who are old enough, it would have sparked memories of his mother, Diana, reaching out to people, back at a time when many still feared that the “gay plague” could be spread via the merest contact.

1991_princess_diana_at_lass

Princess Diana visited LASS in November 1991. Her visit launched the ‘Famous Friends of LASS’ initiative, with over 60 celebrities signing up to offer their voice and support for people living with HIV.

Now, we have Harry, continuing her work, and what a prince indeed: a red-blooded royal hottie!  While William completes his metamorphosis into a staple husband and future King.  Harry gets the playboy prince role. It was fitting that the royal poster boy for rampant heterosexuality should take the blood test, to drive it home that thinking of HIV as a “gay disease” is a dangerous mistake that, even today, in 2016, many straight people make.

Too many heterosexuals still seem stuck in a kind of finger-crossing/wistful thinking zone, or suspended in blissful oblivion about the possibilities of HIV infection. It’s a complicated fog of stupidity, denial and inept fear-management that I recognise only too well from my own experience, years ago, when I took my first HIV test.

(Article via Barbara Ellen at The Guardian)

I recall going to a clinic quite nonchalantly (probably making some smug pompous point about being sensible – perhaps expecting a medal), and then becoming increasingly unnerved as the counsellor and I totted up what I shall delicately refer to as my “risk factors” (I’ll spare you the gory details). At which point, it felt as though it would be a blessed miracle if I wasn’t infected.

To say it was stressful waiting for the results (and for the results of the confirmation test later) is an understatement. I ended up ringing the Terrence Higgins Trust hotline, bothering the kind volunteers (brilliant, by the way) with my relentless paranoid chuntering, which was embarrassing enough at the time. Years later, my shame intensified when I came to know people who were HIV-positive, and handling it with a lot more grace.

Looking back, it was a classic case of belated hetero-panic, doubtless aggravated by not taking the threat seriously enough in the first place.

I can’t help but wonder whether this is what a lot of straight people are still like about HIV and Aids – a bit thick, blinkered and naive (just like I was, strutting into that clinic)?

It seems odd that, from the initial peak-hysteria of HIV/Aids (hospital staff in biohazard suits, Aids adverts full of nightmarish crashing tombstones), the heterosexual mindset so swiftly segued into the blandly mainstream conviction that HIV had little to do with them – the exact kind of attitude that sees heterosexual people ranking among those prone to seeking out HIV tests and treatment late.

I’m not saying that heterosexual HIV-infection is special or that gay HIV-positive people are a more standardised group. Nor do I mean to ignore those infected by non-sexual means.

The point, as Prince Harry said, is for everybody to be tested. However, another point is that these tests, horribly daunting for everybody, may still verge on alien for people who’ve been deluding themselves that they aren’t at risk. That’s why it made so much sense for the heterosexual – perhaps this time more important than his being a prince – Harry to be shown taking that test.

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It isn’t going away!!

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The story of how LASS has responded to the challenge of HIV and AIDS was featured at this year’s East Midlands Oral History Day at Nottingham Library.

Tim Burke, who helped run our 25th anniversary history project in 2014, spoke to the conference about how the project got off the ground and about the interviews with volunteers and staff past and present that resulted in our publication “…and it won’t go away”.

He also read some extracts from the book that showed how LASS volunteers over the years have supported people living with AIDS/HIV.

“There was a great deal of interest from conference participants and they snapped some of the few remaining copies of the book,” said Tim.

“It was something of honour to be asked to contribute to the conference and I hope it will have further raised awareness of the significance of LASS’s work since 1987.”

This year’s event had a theme of oral history and health and LASS’s project was featured alongside other oral history projects ranging from working at Boot’s the Chemist to the medicinal use of cannabis and people’s experiences of life in and out of mental hospitals.

For more, and for your own copy of “…and it won’t go away”. Read the following article:

“…and it won’t go away.” 25 Years of Leicestershire AIDS Support Services

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Hospital will ‘automatically’ test emergency patients for HIV under Elton John partnership

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Sir Elton John has launched a new hospital initiative at a London hospital which will see all patients in the Emergency Department routinely tested for HIV.

107,800 people are living with HIV in the UK ,and of these 24% are undiagnosed – with higher rates in Greater London

Story via Pink News
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Under a new scheme at King’s College Hospital, every patient over the age of 16 who is having their blood tested will be tested for HIV at the same time, unless they choose to opt out.

It is hoped that including HIV tests in routine blood screening will help to identify the large number of people with HIV who are unaware of their status, who would not otherwise be tested.

Sir Elton John and David Furnish visited King’s yesterday to launch the initiative, which aims to reach 34,000 Londoners in its first 12 months of operation, in partnership with the Elton John Foundation.

Similar procedures have been implemented in other London hospitals, including Chelsea and Westminster Hospital and St Thomas’ Hospital – though the practise has not been taken up outside London.

Sir Elton John said: “Twenty-three years ago it was my privilege to open the Caldecot HIV Treatment Centre at King’s College Hospital.

 “At the time, there was so little that could be done to prevent the sickness and death caused by HIV/AIDS, or to ease suffering and prevent infection.

“It was heartbreaking. So it’s incredible to think that today King’s can introduce something which not only stops people becoming sick needlessly, it prevents new infections and saves precious resources.

“I’m deeply proud that my Foundation has been able to support King’s in this endeavor and to see a British hospital leading the kind of innovation that will get us to an AIDS free future.”

Dr Cyril Noel, Consultant in Emergency Medicine said, “We’re extremely grateful to the Elton John AIDS Foundation for the grant that has allowed us to implement universal HIV testing.

“Lambeth and Southwark have some of the highest levels of HIV in the UK. There’s no reason why people should get sick or die from HIV, and one of the most common reasons they do is because they don’t know they have the infection. Universal testing is a significant step in addressing this.”

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What’s stopping YOU from having a HIV test?

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  • 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: aidsmap.com/hiv-test-finder 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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