You can be HIV positive and live positively says Havering charity
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Charity urges sexual health checks
Living with HIV can be scary but it is not a death sentence.
That is the message HIV charity Terrence Higgins Trust would like to promote during National HIV Testing week.
The awareness week runs from November 21 to 28, ahead of World AIDS Day on December 1.
HIV is a viral infection which attacks the immune system and weakens defences against diseases.
You can live with HIV for many years with no symptoms, increasing the risk of late diagnosis and of the virus being unknowingly passed to others.
In Havering, 50 per cent of people diagnosed with HIV receive their diagnosis late.
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Late diagnosis means a person has tested positive for HIV after the virus has started to damage the immune system.
Although there is no cure, medical advancements mean HIV can be managed if it is caught early enough.
In December 2014, 273 people in Havering were accessing care for HIV.
Fazal Mahmood, condom distribution officer for the Terrence Higgins Trust, said the charity wants to normalise sexual health checks.
He said: “People shouldn’t feel worried about getting tested.
“There is a lot of stigma around HIV that shouldn’t exist – we need to be able to talk about sexual health as part of general health.
“HIV is a manageable illness that people can live with.
“Often treatment requires people to take one tablet a day, when diagnosed early.”
“The important factor in HIV treatment is early diagnosis, in order to begin treatment.”
“Regardless of your gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or anything else, everyone should get tested.”
“You can be HIV positive and live positively.”
HIV charity Positive East provides a range of services in Havering including peer support and advice on issues such as isolation, treatment options and living positively with HIV.
If you would like to be tested for HIV, the charity offers rapid tests in community spaces across East London.
The rapid test will involve finger-prick testing, which gives results in 60 seconds.
For more information, visit positiveeast.org.uk/testing