Sexual health experts urge people to check their HIV status during lockdown
People in Halton and Warrington are being encouraged to use lockdown as an opportunity to check their HIV status and avoid unknowingly spreading the virus.
Since the introduction of social distancing measures in March, most people have not been having sex with new partners, which means far fewer people have been exposed to HIV.
And now NHS sexual health professionals at Axess Sexual Health in Warrington and Halton are backing a new campaign, called Break the Chain: Time to Test, and asking people who think they may be at risk of having undiagnosed HIV to get tested.
By encouraging people to get tested while social distancing measures remain in place, experts hope to identify almost everyone who currently has the virus before restrictions are lifted and people become more sexually active.
When someone first catches HIV, they are highly infectious and more likely to pass on the virus than normal. However, HIV infections take between 4-8 weeks before they can be identified through testing. It is during this time that the virus can be spread unknowingly.
Gody Seminega, a Community Outreach Prevention worker at Axess Sexual Health in Warrington and Halton, said: “We have an unprecedented opportunity to stop HIV transmissions. If those who test positive start effective treatment straight away, the virus will become undetectable and they will no longer be at risk of passing it on. I would encourage anyone who thinks they may be at risk of HIV to get a free, confidential testing kit.
“There is currently no cure for HIV but it can be a very manageable condition. There are treatments available that make the virus undetectable, meaning you can prevent transmitting it to your sexual partners, but the first step is getting tested.”
Axess Sexual Health is the integrated sexual health service provided by Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and provides sexual health services in Liverpool, Cheshire East, Warrington, Halton and Knowsley.
Free testing kits can be ordered at www.axess.clinic/order-a-test or collected at the following GP surgeries, pharmacies and businesses:
· Appleton Village Pharmacy, Widnes, Cheshire WA8 6DZ
· Well Runcorn - Grangeway,11 Grangeway, Runcorn WA7 5LY
· Latchford Medical Centre, 5 Thelwall Lane, Latchford, Warrington WA4 1LJ
· Dallam Phamacy, Unit 1, Longhaw Street, Warrington WA5 0FF
· Culcheth Medical Centre, Jackson Avenue, Warrington WA3 4DZ
· G’s Barbershop, 137 Poplars Avenue, Warrington WA2 9LW