Sexual Health West Sussex is encouraging people to take advantage of a new test for HIV which gives a result within just 20 minutes.
The Point of Care Test, now available at the service’s hub in Worthing is an innovative finger prick test that is both accurate and quick to perform.
The case for early diagnosis of HIV is compelling. Today, an individual diagnosed with HIV at the age of 35, with prompt access to effective treatment, has the same life expectancy as a person of the same age without HIV.
Late diagnosis, by contrast, is associated with a greater risk of HIV-related illness, hospital admission, reduced life-expectancy and increased health and social care costs. There may also be an increased risk of spreading the virus, as people unaware of their HIV-positive status could continue to have sexual relations with others without protection.
Most people with HIV look and feel healthy, so you cannot tell who has the virus and you can also pass on HIV without knowing you have it.
James, a travel agent living and working in West Sussex was diagnosed with HIV when he was 35 and is now an advocate of early testing.
He said: “I was very scared to get a test done, but I have discovered there is life after diagnosis, and the treatment and support you receive has improved.
“People should know you can carry HIV for years, and while you wouldn’t know it, all the time it is breaking down your immune system. Get a test done and know your status, because you will be helping yourself as well as others.”
Sexual Health West Sussex cares for more than 500 people living with HIV. Nationwide around 100,000 are HIV-positive, with a further 20,000 believed to be living with HIV but unaware of their condition.
Nicki Amas, Clinical Matron, Sexual Health West Sussex, said: “For many people it takes a lot of courage to go and have an HIV test which is why during HIV Testing Week in the run-up to World AIDS Day we’re making it easier for them.
“The new Point of Care Test is both quick and easy, and gives an initial result within just 20 minutes. With other tests it can take up to a week to receive a result.
“Our staff are specially trained and Sexual Health West Sussex has extensive facilities to counsel, care for and treat anyone who is found to be HIV-positive.
“There are many treatments now available to keep the spread of the virus under control and the earlier you know your diagnosis, the greater the opportunity to manage your condition.
“If anyone is unsure, I would urge them to give us a call, or simply drop in to one of our centres in West Sussex to find out more. Getting tested could be all that’s between you staying well and not passing HIV on to someone you love.”
HIV testing is available on the NHS free of charge to anyone ordinarily resident in the UK, as well as certain categories of overseas visitors.
To find out more about the Point of Care Test, living with HIV, and other services provided by Sexual Health West Sussex, visit sexualhealthwestsussex.nhs.uk, or call 0845 111 3456.
HIV Testing Week takes place from November 22nd to 30th in the run up to World AIDS Day.