Tag Archives: London

Prayer is good, prayer and medication is better!

Pastor Elizabeth was told that prayer was all she needed to fight HIV, she stopped taking her medication after faith leaders insisted she cease taking anti-HIV and life saving drugs.  She wrestled with the decision and is now an advocate for taking medication.  She says “If you are sick, and someone tells you not to take medication, they are misleading you.  Pastor Elizabeth realises this and wishes to share that HIV is simply an illness which requires medication.

At the beginning of the HIV epidemic in the early eighties, some faith leaders preached that only ‘sinners’ contracted the virus, advising that the only solution for those living with HIV was to pray hard for forgiveness. While many faith leaders have since realised that HIV is simply a virus that can affect anyone, unfortunately some haven’t. In fact, a few have gone even further, telling those in their congregations who are living with HIV to stop taking their Antiretroviral treatment (ARVs) and instead concentrate on praying because that’s the only way they will experience emotional and physical healing.

Whether praying to be healed from HIV is being preached in select churches, or some church-goers living with HIV are misinterpreting what their faith leaders are telling them, a number of HIV positive people have died as a result of stopping their HIV medication. What remains unclear is how many people are being converted to this way of thinking. Is this a big problem warranting a global intervention, or are we making a mountain out of a molehill? I personally don’t know the definitive answers to these questions, but what I can say is that where prayer and HIV healing are concerned, I have witnessed and have heard of some pretty bizarre behaviour among people living with HIV, particularly within African communities in the UK and in some parts of Africa.

It was reported in October 2011 that blind faith in prayer claimed the lives of three people who were HIV positive.  At least three people in London with HIV died after they stopped taking life saving drugs on the advice of their Evangelical Christian pastors.

The women died after attending churches in London where they were encouraged to stop taking the antiretroviral drugs in the belief that God would heal them, their friends and a leading HIV doctor said.

HIV prevention charity African Health Policy Network (AHPN) says a growing number of London churches have been telling people the power of prayer will “cure” their infections.

“This is happening through a number of churches. We’re hearing about more cases of this,” AHPN chief Francis Kaikumba said.

Whether you believe in religion or not, there is absolutely nothing wrong with prayer to help you with HIV, however there is everything wrong with discontinuing medication in favour of prayer.  Take time to consider the different mechanises to combat HIV.  Prayer may help the soul and medication will help the body.  There are a lot of people of all faiths in within research and development who would hope you look after your body too.

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How older people with HIV are facing the future

ageing (1)

In common with many people diagnosed with HIV in the 1980s, Danny West thought he had just months to live.  He became ill, watched friends die and prepared for his own demise at the hands of what was then an unknown virus.

Nearly 30 years on, Danny, who is from London, is one of the longest-surviving people in the world with HIV.  He is part of a growing group of around 19,000 adults aged over 50 receiving care for human immunodeficiency virus in the UK, many of them kept alive thanks to improvements in drug treatments.

Recently, the UN called for the “ageing” of the HIV epidemic to be taken seriously. It wants more services to be made available to this age group, who are now facing old age.  For many, life with HIV has been an emotional and physical rollercoaster.

Danny says he never thought he’d see 50.

“I was given a year at most. I was 24, I’d just got my social work qualification and my foot on the career ladder, and it was all whipped away in one moment.

“There was no treatment then. Over the next two years after my diagnosis, all of my peers died. Everyone went down like cards. My community was gone.”

Danny has never been able to get a mortgage and does not have a pension. Despite working in the public sector and for HIV charities for many years, he has no idea what the future holds.

Many older people with HIV have serious money worries “I haven’t prepared myself psychologically for growing older. My body is ageing faster than a normal person’s. I’ve got arthritis and osteoporosis and I live in constant physical pain.  But the real issue for me is poverty – I don’t know how I will cope financially.”

A recent study of people over 50 living with HIV by the Terence Higgins Trust, found that Danny’s concerns were not unusual.

The 50 Plus report showed that older people with HIV are financially disadvantaged compared with their peers and have serious worries about money, poor health, housing and social care.

Lisa Power, policy director at THT, says this is because many people became ill and had to give up work after their diagnosis. Others sold up, cashed in their pensions, went round the world and waited to die.

HIV Over 50

As “brilliant” anti-retroviral drugs started prolonging lives, she says, “benefits were cut for people who hadn’t made provision for their old age, leaving many of the older HIV group living on a basic state pension“.

“We found huge poverty in our study, particularly among those who thought they had a death sentence. Now we’re coming round to understanding that people with HIV have a normal life expectancy.”

For those diagnosed in recent years, the treatment is straight forward and they can carry on working and raise a family. But for those diagnosed back in the 1980s, the HIV journey has been considerably more traumatic.

Doctors still do not yet fully understand the impact of HIV on the ageing process.  Some health problems in older HIV patients may be related to the early treatments they received, which had significant and sometimes toxic side effects, rather than the virus itself.

But there is generally thought to be an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, heart disease, strokes and cancers in people with HIV.

Dr David Asboe, a consultant in HIV medicine and sexual health at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital and chairman of the British HIV Association, says more than half of the HIV patients he sees are over the age of 50, and some are even in their 80s.

“The earlier they are diagnosed, the earlier we can get them into treatment and that’s important. If there is a delay then that’s when the mortality risk increases.”

The psychological effects of HIV on this group are all too obvious, he says.  “They should be able to work, but there is a real loss of confidence, and it can change the way people consider relationships with their family and wider society.”

Danny has recently been forced to moved into damp, cold social housing in an area where he knows no-one, where he is facing the future with HIV alone.  “I don’t have a picture of what I will be doing in the next 10 years. There are lots of uncertainties and unknowns.

“I live in fear of ill health, poverty and isolation. That’s what I lie in bed thinking and worrying about.”

HIV charities say that healthcare professionals, such as GPs, need to understand more about HIV and home carers should be given more training. Too often, patients don’t have the confidence to disclose their status to their doctor or talk about their problems.  Danny says that previously any health problems he had would have been dealt with by a specialist consultant but changes mean that he now has to see his GP first for everything, which is unhelpful and frustrating.

According to Lisa Power, Policy Director for the Terrence Higgins Trust, there are still too many myths surrounding HIV and more public awareness is needed.

“One group thinks there is a cure for it, another thinks it’s a death sentence. The reality is that people with HIV have a managed, chronic condition – but they also have a life.”

Story courtesy of the BBC News Health

You can download a copy of the national study of ageing from the Terrence Higgins Trust here.

You may also be interested in: Many Older People with HIV Face ‘Age-Related Stigma’ (lass.org.uk)

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Going to Hospital? – How about a HIV Test?

Ch4Test

A London NHS trust is offering all hospital outpatients an HIV test, regardless of why they are there, to tackle the fact that a fifth of people in the UK with HIV are unaware of their infection.

Click to view Channel 4 News video (3:21 min, opens in a new window)

Patients coming in to six hospitals across in east London this week for anything from follow-up appointments to routine blood tests will all be offered an HIV test.

The initiative is part of a national drive to get more people in the UK tested. Around 100,000 people in the UK have HIV, (About 1,300 are within Leicestershire) but experts estimate that around one fifth are unaware of their diagnosis because they have not had a test. This means not only that their condition can become more advanced and harder to treat, but also that they could unintentionally infect others.

Thousands of patients pass through NHS hospitals every day – but at the moment, HIV testing is limited to only a few specific areas.

Dr Chloe Orkin, HIV testing lead for Barts Health NHS Trust, said:

“We are used to seeing health messages all the time in hospitals about stopping smoking, or having a flu jab. Messages encouraging HIV testing should take an important place amongst them.

We are used to seeing messages about stopping smoking. Messages encouraging HIV testing should take a place amongst them.”

Dr Chloe Orkin, Barts Health NHS Trust

The trust aims to test 2,500 outpatients across six London hospitals this week, including the Royal London, in what is thought to be the biggest testing campaign of its kind ever in the UK. It wants to remove the stigma of an HIV test.

HIV infection remains one of the UK’s most important communicable diseases, according to Public Health England. And the problem is worse in some areas, including east London – where people are three times more likely to have HIV than elsewhere in the UK.

But a positive diagnosis is a long way from the “death sentence” that it used to be seen as in the 1980s. Medical advances mean that people diagnosed promptly can expect a near normal life expectancy.

‘I felt let down’

Alan, a 70-year-old Londoner, spent 12 months of illness recently without a diagnosis because none of the doctors who saw him thought of offering him a HIV test.

“Nobody thought to test me for HIV. When I was finally asked if I was willing to be tested I immediately said: ‘Yes, by all means, let’s get that out of the way,'” he said.

“Having been found to be positive at almost seventy years old was a massive shock but once it had sunk in I did feel somewhat let down that nobody had suggested it before, despite the otherwise wonderful care I had received.

“We need to take away the stigma of being tested for HIV so that it becomes a routine test for people visiting hospital irrespective of their gender, ethnicity or age.”

An earlier, smaller pilot at the hospital earlier this year found eight people who were not aware they were HIV positive and who are now receiving treatment. Doctors hope to help more people with the new testing push. Results will be made available within a week and anyone who tests positive will be offered continuing treatment.

Clinicians and HIV charities are united in the belief that testing in this manner is the way forward, but there are issues with cost. Student doctors are providing the tests at the hospital this week.

But Barts NHS Trust says testing like this would ultimately save money. It costs around £5 to do an HIV test and around £5,000 a year to keep an HIV positive person healthy, but it can cost £500,000 to treat someone who is diagnosed late and who needs costly treatments in hospital.

“We want to make it normal for staff to offer HIV tests, and normal for patients to accept them,” said Dr Orkin.

“If a doctor missed a diabetes or cancer diagnosis people would be very upset. Diagnosing HIV patients late by not testing them is just as serious and we need to change this.”

If you would like a free, confidential HIV test, you can visit LASS for a free confidential

Did you know it’s National HIV Testing week this week? – If you’ve never had a HIV Test and had sex at least once, without a condom, then it might be a good idea to get one.

Our tests are free and confidential and iIt only takes a few minutes to get the result. Call us on 0116 2559995 if you’re interested.

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HIV positive patients fail to disclose their infection to NHS staff

trustinthenhs

A significant proportion of HIV positive patients may not be disclosing their infection to NHS staff, when turning up for treatment at sexual health clinics.

This is the finding suggested by preliminary research published online in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections.

If the findings reflect a national trend, this could have implications for the true prevalence of undiagnosed HIV infection in the population, which is based on the numbers of “undiagnosed” patients at sexual health clinics, say the authors.

Currently, it is estimated that around one in four people in the UK who is HIV positive doesn’t know they’re infected with the virus.

The estimate is based on several sources of data, including the GUMAnon Survey, which routinely looks for HIV infection in blood samples taken from patients to test for syphilis at one of 16 participating sexual health clinics across the UK.

The results are then matched with the individual’s diagnostic status—whether they had been diagnosed before their arrival at the clinic, or were diagnosed at their clinic visit, or left the clinic “unaware” of their HIV status.

It is thought that a proportion of patients who do know their HIV status nevertheless choose not to reveal it to NHS staff when attending for services elsewhere.

To test this theory, the researchers analysed all HIV positive samples from one participating GUMAnon clinic in London in 2009 for the presence of very low viral loads— a hallmark of successful drug treatment—and various antiretroviral drugs.

Of the 130 samples which matched clinic records, 28 were from patients who were not known to be HIV positive before their arrival at clinic. Ten had been tested for HIV at their clinic visit.

The remaining 18 did not have a test at the clinic, and were therefore classified as undiagnosed. Yet almost three out of four (72%) of these samples had very low viral loads, indicative of successful drug treatment.

Only eight samples were of sufficient volume to be able to officially test for antiretroviral drugs, but evidence of HIV treatment was found in all of them.

“This is the first published objective evidence that non-disclosure of HIV status as a phenomenon exists in patients attending [sexual health] clinics in the UK,” write the authors.

“Given the high proportion of individuals classified within this study as [non-disclosing], the extent to which these findings can be extrapolated to other clinics, and the degree to which they may influence estimates of the proportion of undiagnosed HIV in the community, warrants further study,” they conclude.

The reasons why they don’t come clean(sic) about their HIV status may be that they don’t want to be “judged,” given that they have come to the clinic with another infection, which implies they are indulging in risky sexual behaviour, suggests lead author Dr Ann Sullivan of London’s Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

But by not revealing their HIV status, they could be missing out on the chance to be treated more holistically and discuss other aspects of their health which might be affected by HIV, she says.

Original Article via Onmedica, taking medical information further.

DISCUSSION:

The comment by Ann (above) implies NHS staff are predisposed with attitudes toward sex.  Especially when using phrases like “when they don’t come clean” – However, NHS staff; particularly those within genitourinary medicine should not assume those who wish to have a HIV test participate in “risky sexual behaviour” as for a lot of people, HIV infection can simply occur when the HIV status of a sexual partner is positive, but not known and undiagnosed, then innocently passed to another (which is why is it recommended that condoms are used if the HIV status of the other person is unknown.

Do you have an opinion on this? – Let us know in the comments below.

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Happy Valentines Day!!

Gender Symbols

Each year, on 14th February around the world, flowers, chocolates and gifts are exchanged between loved ones, all in the name of St. Valentine.

Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages, though written Valentine’s didn’t begin to appear until after 1400. The oldest known valentine still in existence today was a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. (The greeting is now part of the manuscript collection of the British Library in London).  Several years later, it is believed that King Henry V hired a writer named John Lydgate to compose a valentine note to Catherine of Valois.

By the middle of the 18th century, it was common for friends and lovers of all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes, and by 1900 printed cards began to replace written letters due to improvements in printing technology. Ready-made cards were an easy way for people to express their emotions in a time when direct expression of one’s feelings was discouraged. Cheaper postage rates also contributed to an increase in the popularity of sending Valentine’s Day greetings.

Today, according to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year, making Valentine’s Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year. (Next to Christmas with 2.6 cards are sent for Christmas).

Today, alongside traditional paper based cards, digital eCards are sent, (the first ‘Electronic Postcard’ was created and sent in 1994 by Judith Donath of MIT Media Lab) and since that time, a large variety of websites offer similar services – to share and send ecards to loved ones at times of celebration.

LASS are no different, and we offer you the following video to share with your loved ones. As a sexual health charity, we obviously like to talk about sex and encourage people to enjoy sex responsibility, so what better time to release a cheeky video than Valentine’s Day?

Please share our video with your valentine (and your friends)!  We wish you all a very happy Valentine’s day or evening, (Whatever you get up to) and we hope our cheeky message will remind you to have a good time, and remember to be safe while you’re having it 😉

Tanya Goodwin created this concept video with animation by Richie Phillips at Seed Creativity.

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New HIV Test is 10 Times More Sensitive and a Fraction of the Price

Scientists have developed a HIV test which is ten times more sensitive and a fraction of the cost of existing methods.

The test uses nanotechnology which alters chemicals to give a visual result by turning a sample red or blue, according to research from scientists at Imperial College in London published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

Molly Stevens who led the research said “Our approach affords for improved sensitivity, does not require sophisticated instrumentation and it is ten times cheaper,”.

Simple and quick HIV tests that analyze saliva already exist but they can only pick up the virus when it reaches relatively high concentrations in the body.

“We would be able to detect infection even in those cases where previous methods, such as the saliva test, were rendering a ‘false negative’ because the viral load was too low to be detected,” she said.

The test could also be reconfigured to detect other diseases, such as sepsis, Leishmaniasis, Tuberculosis and malaria, Stevens said.
Testing is not only crucial in picking up the HIV virus early but also for monitoring the effectiveness of treatments.

“Unfortunately, the existing gold standard detection methods can be too expensive to be implemented in parts of the world where resources are scarce,” Stevens said.

According to 2010 data from the World Health Organisation, about 23 million people living with HIV are in Sub-Saharan Africa out of a worldwide total of 34 million.

The virus is also spreading faster and killing more people in this part of the world. Sub-Saharan Africa accounted for 1.9 million new cases out of a global total of 2.7 million in the same year, and 1.2 million out of the 1.8 million deaths.

The new sensor works by testing serum, a clear watery fluid derived from blood samples, in a disposable container for the presence of an HIV biomarker called p24.

If p24 is present, even in minute concentrations, it causes the tiny gold nanoparticles to clump together in an irregular pattern that turns the solution blue. A negative result separates them into ball shapes that generate a red color.

That sensor used tiny gold stars laden with antibodies that latched onto the marker in a sample and produced a silver coating that could be detected with microscopes.

Stevens and her collaborator on the new test, Roberto de la Rica, said they plan to approach not-for-profit global health organizations to help them manufacture and distribute the new sensor in low income countries.

Original Story via Reuters

HAVE YOU EVER HAD A HIV TEST?

If you’re interested in having a HIV test, we offer a completely free and confidential rapid HIV test and you’ll get the 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 post contact for detecting HIV 1 and 2 antibodies. We also have a mobile testing van which is often out in communities providing mobile rapid HIV tests. Appointments are not always necessary, if you would like a test, please contact us on 0116 2559995

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Faith leaders across England in ‘HIV healing’ claims

Synagogue Church Of All Nations website shows videos of people it claims have been “cured”

Dangerous cases of faith leaders who tell people with HIV to stop taking their life-saving drugs have been identified by African-led community groups in a number of locations across England.

Seven groups said there were instances of people being told by faith leaders they had been “healed” through prayer – and then pressured to stop taking antiretroviral medication, according to the charity African Health Policy Network (AHPN).

Cases were reported to have taken place in Finsbury Park, Tottenham, and Woolwich, in London, as well as in Manchester, Leeds and at a number of churches across the North West.

Last year, BBC London identified three people with HIV who died after they stopped taking antiretroviral drugs on the advice of their Evangelical Christian pastors.

AHPN, which tackles health inequalities for Africans living in the UK, called on the government to do more to prevent faith leaders encouraging people with HIV to stop taking their drugs.

“The government, the department of health, and local authorities are not doing enough to respond to this,” said Jacqueline Stevenson, AHPN’s head of policy.

Multiple cases
A Department of Health spokesman said: “Prayer is not a substitute for HIV treatment and we would be very concerned if people are not taking their medication on the advice of faith leaders.”

AHPN said the cases reported to it by community groups showed:

Most respondents were aware of more than one case of faith healing claims and pressure to stop taking medication. One member was aware of five cases
Many followers believed the testimony of pastors who claimed they could heal them
The majority of cases reported involved Evangelical or Pentecostal Christian pastors
In some cases treatment has been restarted, in others the health and mental health of clients has declined.
Although community groups said they were aware of multiple cases, the members who reported being exposed to faith healers were unwilling to name the churches involved.

AHPN’s Ms Stevenson said: “People were reluctant to name the churches and pastors.”

Cancer ‘cure’

Synagogue Church Of All Nations says: “Never a disease God cannot cure.”

Last year AHPN said it believed the Synagogue Church Of All Nations (SCOAN), which has UK headquarters in Southwark, south London, may be one of those involved in such practices.

The church is headed by Pastor T B Joshua, who the Forbes richlist named as Nigeria’s third richest clergyman.

SCOAN’s website, which was set up in Lagos, Nigeria, now shows videos of people the church claims have been “cured” of HIV through prayer.

One video shows a woman Agnes Agnote visiting the church in Nigeria saying: “I am HIV positive. I went to the hospital and they confirmed it was HIV/Aids.”

The video then shows Pastor Joshua blessing her, saying “everyone is healed”.

It goes on to show Ms Agnote apparently showing a more recent medical report, with a narrator saying, “it clearly states that Agnes tested negative to HIV Aids”.

Videos on the website also depict people being cured of “cancers” and “disabilities”.

‘Anointing sticker’ tour
The church’s British website now gives accounts of people reporting to be healed from conditions including arthritis and a lung blood clot after being a sprayed with “anointing water” by SCOAN in the UK.

It promotes a monthly “anointing water prayer line” in London “for any health issues” and advertises an “anointing sticker” tour of the UK and Ireland, which begins on Monday.

Last year, when asked by the BBC if it claimed its pastors could cure HIV, SCOAN responded: “We are not the healer. God is the healer. Never a sickness God cannot heal. Never a disease God cannot cure.”

But it added: “We don’t ask people to stop taking medication. Doctors treat – God heals.”

Ms Stevenson warned: “Often faith groups and churches spring up and nobody really knows they are there or what they are doing.”

“There needs to be investment in taking some action at national and local levels to address this issue.”

She added that AHPN wanted to see faith groups and churches “having the same responsibility in terms of safeguarding and respecting individuals as any other organisation would be expected to have”.

But AHPN warned that criminal sanctions would not be an appropriate solution and would risk “pushing the problem underground”.

“We call for local authorities to work with faith groups and ensure these negative messages are not put out.”

The Department of Communities and Local Government refused to respond to these comments.

But the Department of Health said faith organisations “can make a positive contribution to raising awareness of HIV” by “highlighting the benefits of testing and effective antiretroviral treatment”.

Original article By Andy Dangerfield
BBC News, London

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