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World Health Organisation Advocates for HIV Self-Testing

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The first legally approved HIV self testing kits only became available in the UK last year.

Forty percent of the people with HIV globally are unaware they are infected, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said in a statement yesterday (Tues 29th Nov) , two days ahead of World AIDS Day.

The WHO is advocating for broader access to self-testing kits to make it easier for those at risk to determine whether they are infected.

“HIV self-testing should open the door for many more people to know their HIV status and find out how to get treatment and access prevention services,” said WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan.

The report cited studies which found that providing self-testing kits nearly doubles the chances of men who have sex with men getting tested.

Late Diagnosis in Leicester

Late HIV diagnosis in Leicester is 13.8% higher than the average for England.  HIV testing is 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.

Do you know your HIV status? – The only way to know if you have HIV or not is to get a HIV test.  You can do this for free at your doctor, free at an NHS clinic, free with charities like LASS and now you can even do a HIV test at home, at your convenience.

For more information on HIV Testing, please visit our website where you can find information about testing with us or other places in Leicester/shire and around the UK.

You can also apply for a FREE home sampling HIV kit or you can purchase your own self test kit.  An explanation on the differences between testing methods is available in our HIV Testing Pages.

Self-testing would be particularly beneficial to populations that face a wide variety of barriers to testing centers; however, many of the financial constraints which prevent access to testing and treatment may similarly impede access to self-testing kits.

Still, the WHO noted significant improvements in HIV awareness and treatment in the past decade. In 2005, just 12 percent of those infected with HIV knew they had the AIDS virus. Last year, the number climbed to 60 percent. Additionally, 80 percent of those who know they are HIV-positive are currently receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART).

Wide-scale implementation of self-testing remains limited, but 23 countries currently have policies in place supporting it, and many other nations are developing similar policies.

You can read the full statement by the World Health Organisation here: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2016/world-aids-day/en/

Want to know how a HIV test works? – See this video featuring Dr Christian on loose women .

Thanks for reading, let us know what you think in the comments below, or you can find us on FacebookTwitter or Instagram!

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Positive Hell: Silencing The HIV Heretics

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A controversial documentary has been censored by the London Independent Film Festival.

A screening of a documentary aimed at ‘exposing the myths of HIV and AIDS’ has been cancelled after threats of protest. Positive Hell, which features five individuals who have refused antiviral drugs for HIV and lived to tell the tale, was due to be screened at the London Independent Film Festival (LIFF). But it’s now been pulled from the programme.

Story via Spiked, a free speech website.
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Producer and narrator of Positive Hell, Joan Shenton, tells me she is ‘flabbergasted’ by the move, adding that LIFF caved in to a ‘handful of emails’ designed to ‘shut down debate’ about HIV treatment. The email Shenton received from LIFF festival director, Erich Schultz, stated that ‘major HIV/AIDS organisations contacted me today, urging me not to screen Positive Hell, and warning of protests [against] LIFF, my screening venue and our sponsors if we don’t comply’. Shenton suggested the event should go ahead as planned despite the protests, but Schultz said he would not reconsider. Shenton says she had previously suggested a Q&A session to accompany the film screening, because she knew the film was ‘likely to provoke a heated discussion’. This suggestion was overlooked.

Shenton is known for her controversial views on what she calls the ‘HIV orthodoxy’, whereby, she claims, unnecessary antiviral treatment is being foisted on patients due to the influence of the pharmaceutical industry. However, she says she has never before experienced such blatant censorship: ‘We have had these kinds of protests in the past and just ignored them. What does it matter if, in a free society, some people demonstrate outside?’

According to some students in particular, it matters a lot. In Schultz’s email to Shenton he said he had received ‘20 protest letters, including one from the LGBT society of the university [University of London] where I teach (and where all of my selection committee comes from)’. As the University of London includes Birkbeck, King’s College, Queen Mary, UCL, Royal Holloway and Goldsmiths (all of which received a Red ranking in spiked’s Free Speech University Rankings), it’s unsurprising they wanted to block Shenton’s film.

You can watch the film in it’s entirety below, and visit their website www.positivehell.com

Thanks for reading, let us know what you think in the comments below, or you can find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for more!

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World AIDS Day 2011: LASS In The News – ITV1 Julie’s Real Story and Our Free Rapid HIV Testing Service!

We are pleased publish our local advert to promote HIV testing, in our office location in Leicester Town Centre, on Regent Road.

This advert speaks with 15 languages internationally.  This advert cost marginally and considerably less than the Governments 1987 “Tombstone” Advert.

Our message is clear, it is better to know your own HIV status and you can get a HIV test at LASS, and have the result within a minute!

Our team of volunteers have specialist training to provide a free and confidential test, we also have a fantastic support team to provide after-care and further information if required.  We also have established network links so we can refer to more specialist agencies all around Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland so you can be sure to get expert advice for your needs.

We also have a support group called LhivE, a group of people from Leicester, Leicestershire & Rutland who are living with HIV.  Living with HIV brings a whole set of its own issues and LhivE demonstrate that people living with HIV can lead fulfilling and safe lives with choices.

We hope you like our new advert and hope that you’ll feel comfortable to contact us if you would like a free and confidential test.

The city of Leicester has the fastest-rising HIV rate in the east Midlands and the sixth-highest in the country.

Meanwhile, in 2009/10, national research demonstrated that community testing was effective in delivering tests to those at risk, preventing late diagnosis and thereby reducing onward transmission. As there was no such community testing service in Leicester, we set about creating one!

It is the training of our volunteers which makes the project unique as a method of engaging with specific African communities which are considered to have a high need.  As well as delivering courses to train volunteers to carry out tests among Zimbabwean and Congolese community groups, we also provide a safe and confidential place for people to receive a test.

Our volunteers have created a 50-second advert promoting the value of knowing your HIV status in 15 languages.

We have delivered more than 400 tests, more than half of which are to the BME communities in the region.  While the first phase of the project involved delivering tests only from our building, funding has ensured  we can use our van to take testing to more venues across Leicester, Leicestershire & Rutland.

We were delighted to be highly commended by the Charity Awards, the UK charity sector’s most prestigious awards scheme earlier this year, after being short-listed in the Healthcare & Medical Research category.   This means we have been judged to be of the best 32 Charities in the whole country. Our sincere thanks go to all our service users, volunteers, staff and people in partner organisations who are the real reason we have achieved such a magnificent accolade. Community based HIV testing and our advertisement for this service were the basis of for our application.

WIDESPREAD TESTING IS URGENTLY NEEDED – Health Protection Agency.

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) predicts that unless more focus is given to HIV prevention and routine testing, more people could become infected.

It is 30 years since the first case of HIV was formally diagnosed, and since then there have been several major breakthroughs in medical treatment resulting in longer life expectancy for those infected by the virus.

But some medical experts now believe because of the success of anti viral drugs in prolonging the lives of carriers, it has led to complacency.

HPA figures show that in the last three decades 115,000 people have been diagnosed with HIV in the UK alone, with 27,000 people having gone on to develop full-blown Aids – and 20,000 of those having since died.

We need a complete and wholesome approach to treating HIV and most importantly help prevent its spread – Dr Rupert Whitaker, a long-standing HIV survivor

But what is worrying the medical profession and campaign pressure groups is that, despite all the medical advances over the last three decades, the number of HIV cases in the UK is expected to rise next year to 100,000 and some of those cases will be people who do not yet realise they have been infected by the virus.

Dr Valerie Delpech, Head of HIV surveillance at the HPA, believes widespread testing is urgently needed to help get new cases diagnosed.

“It is so crucial when treating someone who is HIV positive as quickly as possible. That way their lives can be prolonged considerably,” she said.

“Provided someone is tested within the early stages of infection, so they have only had HIV for a short time, and they receive effective medication followed up by effective therapy, then their life expectancy is very good.

“In fact we can safely say HIV is no longer a life threatening illness but a chronic life long condition which if treated correctly can mean people can live to their normal life expectancy.”

LASS are registered for JustTextGiving which enables supporters to make donations of up to £10 by text message.

It’s easy to donate to LASS, and it takes no time at all, simply text: “LASS25 £10″ to 70070.  (You can change the amount of your donation to: £1, £2, £3, £4 or £5 if you prefer) and you’ll receive a text message receipt, and the chance to add Gift Aid by text or in web form.  More details are available from this link.

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Sexual Health Experts Warn Of New Syphilis Threat

Sexual health experts say they are deeply concerned about several outbreaks of syphilis among heterosexual teenagers.

In recent years the infection has been largely confined to older adults, particularly homosexual men.

But clusters of the disease are being seen in Teesside, Hampshire, Rochdale and central Scotland among teenagers.

The British Association for Sexual Health and HIV says there are likely to be other cases going unreported too.

Since the late 1990s there has been a sharp rise in cases of syphilis. Most of these have been in homosexual men, often in their 20s or 30s.

But recently there have been several small outbreaks across Britain of syphilis in heterosexual teenagers – described in detail in the International Journal of STD and Aids.

Any outbreak of syphilis among young people, among teenagers is unexpected. Syphilis shouldn’t be happening in those groups and we really don’t know why it’s there” -Peter Greenhouse Sexual health consultant

It should be stressed that the number of cases described is small – the largest outbreak has been just over 30 in a year – but the reports highlight problems in tracing sexual contacts, raising fears of further undiagnosed cases, and the spread of disease within the wider sexually active population.

Peter Greenhouse, a sexual health consultant based in Bristol who speaks for the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (Bashh), says these cases must be taken seriously.

“Any outbreak of syphilis among young people, among teenagers is unexpected. Syphilis shouldn’t be happening in those groups and we really don’t know why it’s there. So if we can see a small number of outbreaks in a small number of young people it means there must be others going on as well.”

Martin Murchie, president of the Society of Sexual Health Advisers, agrees that the number of cases diagnosed may just be the “tip of the iceberg”.

He says increasing numbers of people, including teenagers, are arranging to have anonymous sex through social networks. He warns that this is making the task of tracing sexual contacts even harder.

“The way that people meet for sex is very different and changing in society. That in itself can be problematic in trying to trace contacts because some people may change their username that they had originally on the social network site, or the health service itself may not be able to access the social networking site.”

Dr Patrick French, a consultant in Genito Urinary Medicine in London, says there is no room for any complacency. He says syphilis is a serious disease that can lead to heart disease, stroke and dementia, and raises the risk of acquiring HIV.

“The worry is that if syphilis gets into the wider sexually active population of young people it could then become a common and endemic infection. Before syphilis became unusual in the UK in the 1980s it was a major cause of ill health and that’s no longer the case. So it’s a very important infection to try and prevent.”

Many experts fear that sexual health services in England may be hampered by the government’s proposals to move them from the NHS to local council control.

Peter Greenhouse, from Bashh, says: “Some of the services may be privatised or cut down in terms of resources, so we may lose some of our health adviser teams.”

But the Department of Health rejected these concerns.

A spokesman said: “Our reforms won’t fragment sexual health services. Under our plans, the responsibility for most sexual health services will go to local councils. This will allow councils to make crucial links between improving sexual health and their other responsibilities.”

Original Article by Adam Brimelow, Health Correspondent at BBC News

The following video from LiveStrong.com contains more information about Syphilis.

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What Can We Do Now to Speed Up HIV Cure Research?

As most of you know, the case of Timothy Brown (aka The Berlin patient), a person who got cured of HIV and leukemia 5 years ago, has jolted a new energy and hope into the search for a HIV cure.  But most people with HIV, policymakers and potential funding sources are not fully aware of this case and what the new movement for a search for a cure are all about. So, Nelson Vergel, writer for The Body.com decided was to travel around the country to interview key players in advancing this field and make a short video that could serve as a catalyst for awareness and change.

This short video, done with a very low budget with the help of his activist friend Greg Fowler, is only part of a longer, more detailed documentary to be finished before World AIDS Day this year, the 30-year anniversary of the first AIDS cases.

Please watch it and forward it to your friends. Please follow the suggestions made in that video and become part of the cure! Everyone can do something now to raise awareness and funds not only for research but also for advocacy and education in this important new and expanding area.

Via TheBody.com

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Antiretroviral Drugs Work – This Is Why You Should Take Them!

In light of yesterday’s news which reported that three people died after they stopped taking antiretroviral medicine on the advice of a religious leader, it’s important to highlight why anti-HIV drugs are significant and how essential it is to take them correctly.

HIV is a virus which attacks the immune system – the body’s defence system against infection and illness. If you have HIV, you can take drugs to reduce the level of HIV in your body. By reducing the amount of HIV in your body, you can slow or prevent damage to your immune system. These drugs are not a cure, but they can help you stay well and extend your life. Anti-HIV drugs are known as antiretroviral drugs.

HIV mainly infects cells in the immune system called CD4 cells. Over many years of HIV infection, the number of CD4 cells drops gradually but continually and the immune system is weakened. If nothing is done to slow or halt this destruction of the immune system, a condition called AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) follows, as the immune system is no longer able to fight infections. Antiretroviral drugs work by interrupting this process.

An untreated person with HIV may have thousands or even millions of HIV particles in every millilitre of blood. The aim of treatment is to reduce the amount of HIV to very low levels (this is called an ‘undetectable’ level) – below 50 copies per millilitre of blood, although some HIV treatment centres are now using tests that can measure as low as 40 copies/ml.

To provide you with the best chance of reducing the amount of HIV in your blood to very low levels, your doctor will recommend that you take a powerful combination of at least three antiretroviral drugs. Once your viral load – the amount of HIV in your blood – has dropped, your immune system should begin to recover and your ability to fight infections is likely to improve.

When you start or change a drug combination, a viral load and CD4 count will be done within the first month of treatment. This is to check that the drugs are working. Testing is generally performed every three months, although some doctors may perform tests more often to begin with and less frequently once you are well established on treatment and doing well.

Once you are on HIV treatment, you may have tests to measure liver and kidney function and fat and sugar levels in your blood, to assess the effects of the drugs on the normal workings of your body.

Your HIV care will also involve a number of other routine tests. These will be to monitor your general health and to see if your treatment is causing any side-effects.

It is very important not to miss doses of your anti-HIV drugs and to take them exactly as prescribed. If you miss doses, or you do not take the drugs as you are supposed to, the HIV in your body is more likely to develop resistance to them. This will reduce their long-term effectiveness.

The above information is taken from NAM’s “Anti-HIV Drugs” booklet which you can download from here, (or pick up a copy from LASS, next time you’re in)  Additionally, Uptodate.com has very useful information and tips for taking HIV meds, it’s always a good idea to refresh your knowledge on Adherence.

Having a daily timetable for taking medication and taking all doses exactly as prescribed is the traditional definition of adherence, also known as compliance. This may sound simple, but in the case of highly active antiretroviral treatment (HAART), it is not. The challenge only increases as people who are infected and able to access therapy face life-long treatment and side-effect management.

If some medications are not taken at the correct time interval, the drug level can either be too high (causing unnecessary toxicities or side-effects) or too low (encouraging viral resistance). From a public health standpoint, suboptimal adherence also increases both the risk of transmission and the risk of transmitting drug-resistant virus to others.

Correctly taken, highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) maintains a consistent attack on HIV. When drug levels in the body fluctuate, HIV is given the opportunity to reproduce. Ongoing replication permits drug-resistant viral strains to develop and this narrows future treatment options.

Beyond personal benefit, maintaining adherence and viral suppression has a public health benefit. When viral load is low, so is the likelihood of transmission to others.

For more details on adherence or HIV medicines, speak with your doctor and health care professionals.

Philadelphia FIGHT (Field Initiating Group for HIV Trials) is a comprehensive AIDS service organization providing education, advocacy and research on potential treatments and vaccines. FIGHT was formed as a partnership of individuals living with HIV/AIDS and clinicians, who joined together to improve the lives of people living with HIV. They produce educational videos via “The AIDS Library” and serves the community through delivery of information on HIV, such as treatments, nutrition, and history of the pandemic, and referrals to regional and national resources.

The following videos are a 30 minute presentation on How HIV Meds work,

How HIV Meds Work Part 1: HIV Life Cycle

How HIV Meds Work Part 2: Drug Classes

How HIV Meds Work Part 3: Timing

Source material for this article via NAM, BBC News, Uptodate.com, Avert.com, Bupa and Philadelphia FIGHT

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Increase In Life Expectancy for People Living With HIV

People with HIV have a 15 years longer life expectancy thanks to improved treatments over the past 13 years, according to a new study published on the British Medical Journal website.

Researchers found that the life expectancy of these patients improved significantly between 1996 and 2008, and that earlier diagnosis and timely treatment can increase life expectancy.   HIV infection has become a chronic disease with a good prognosis if treatment begins sufficiently early in the course of the disease and the patient sticks to antiretroviral treatment. However life expectancy for people with the disease is lower than that of the general population.

Researchers led by Dr Margaret May of the University of Bristol’s School of Social and Community Medicine set out to estimate life expectancy of people treated for HIV infection and compare it with that of the UK general population.

They used data from the UK Collaborative HIV Cohort (UK CHIC) study, which in 2001 began collating routine data on HIV positive people attending some of the UK’s largest clinical centres since January 1996.  Patients included in the analysis were aged 20 years and over and started treatment with antiretroviral therapy with at least three drugs between 1996 and 2008.

The researchers studied data on 17,661 patients, of whom 1,248 (7%) died between 1996 and 2008.   Their analysis shows that life expectancy for an average 20-year-old infected with HIV increased from 30 years to almost 46 between the periods 1996-9 and 2006-8.

The findings also show that life expectancy for women treated for HIV is ten years’ higher than for men. During the period 1996 -2008, life expectancy was 40 years for male patients and 50 years for female patients compared with 58 years for men and nearly 62 years for women in the general UK population.   The point at which a person started treatment had an impact on their life expectancy, as the researchers also found that starting antiretroviral therapy later than guidelines suggest, resulted in up to 15 years loss of life.

Doctors use a test to count the number of CD4 cells in one cubic millimetre of blood. A normal CD4 count in a healthy, HIV-negative adult is usually between 600 and 1,200 CD4 cells/mm3.   The researchers found that life expectancy was 38 years, 41 years and 53 years in those starting antiretroviral therapy with CD4 counts less than 100, 100-199 and 200-350/mm3 cells respectively.

The improvement in life expectancy since 1996 was likely to be due to several factors, they say, including a greater proportion of patients with high CD4 counts, better antiretroviral therapy, more effective drugs, and an upward trend in the UK population life expectancy.

They conclude: “Life expectancy in the HIV-positive population has significantly improved in the UK between 1996 and 2008 and we should expect further improvements for patients starting antiretroviral therapy now with improved modern drugs and new guidelines recommending earlier treatment.  There is a need to identify HIV-positive individuals early in the course of disease in order to avoid the very large negative impact that starting antiretroviral therapy at a CD4 count below 200 cells/mm3 has on life expectancy.”

Dr Mark Gompels, lead clinician and co-author, North Bristol NHS Trust, said “These results are very reassuring news for current patients and will be used to counsel those recently found to be HIV-positive.”   In an accompanying editorial, researchers in Boston argue that, although these gains are encouraging, they have not been seen in everyone with HIV.

Nevertheless, this study “serves as an urgent call to increase awareness of the effectiveness of current HIV treatments in patients and providers,” they say. “In turn this should increase rates of routine HIV screening, with timely linkage to care and uninterrupted treatment. As these factors improve, the full benefits of treatment for all HIV infected people can be realised.”

The study also finds that women with HIV could expect to live a decade longer than men with HIV, perhaps because women are tested for HIV during pregnancy and are likely to start treatment earlier.

The data
  • Data on 17,661 patients, of whom 1,248 (7%) died between 1996 and 2008
  • Life expectancy for the average 20-year-old with HIV increased from 30 to almost 46 years between the periods 1996-9 and 2006-8
  • Life expectancy for women treated for HIV was 10 years’ higher than for men
  • Starting anti-retroviral therapy later than guidelines suggest resulted in up to 15 years’ loss of life
Dr. Anthony Fauci explains how advances in treatment research have dramatically increased the life expectancy for those infected with HIV.

The Terrence Higgins Trust says people at risk should get tested now.  Figures suggest more than 80,000 UK are living with HIV, and about 25% are unaware they have the infection however, it’s good news for people with HIV, their families and friends.

Sir Nick Partridge (CEO of THT) said: “It also demonstrates why it’s so much better to know if you have HIV. Late diagnosis and late treatment mean an earlier grave, so if you’ve been at risk for HIV, get tested now.   Of course, it’s not just length of life that’s important, but quality of life too, and having HIV can still severely damage your life’s chances.   While so much has changed 30 years on from the start of the epidemic, condoms continue to be the best way to protect yourself and your partner from HIV in the first place.”

Are you 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

Original Articles via BBC News and the British Medical Journal

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