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You can be HIV positive and live positively says Havering charity

PUBLISHED: 10:00 29 November 2015

HIV Testing week leads up to World AIDS day on December 1

HIV Testing week leads up to World AIDS day on December 1

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Charity urges sexual health checks

HIV – facts, figures and myth-busting information

n HIV cannot be transmitted by spit, sweat or urine

n In 2014, 29 children were newly diagnosed with HIV – down from 131 in 2005

n 95 per cent of people diagnosed with HIV in 2014 acquired it through sexual conduct

n People diagnosed late are 10 times more likely to die within a year than those diagnosed promptly

n There is currently no cure for HIV but people diagnosed promptly who receive early medical treatment can expect near normal life expectancy

n There has been a 2pc decrease in testing at sexual health clinics over the last twelve months, despite public health campaigns

n In 2014, 613 people with HIV died

n Around two-fifths of people living with diagnosed-HIV live in London

n Around one in three people living with HIV report having experienced discrimination

n 48pc of people accessing HIV care in 2014 were aged 45 or over

n It is most commonly caught by having sex without a condom

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.

Living with HIV: George’s story

George, a middle-aged gay man living in Harold Hill, has been HIV positive for six years.

Not well enough to work or get out much to socialise, George’s levels of confidence are low and he can become quite anxious.

When first attempting to visit support group Positive East’s offices in Stepney George got completely lost and had to call his family to come and collect him as he suffered a panic attack.

George felt extremely isolated and wanted to meet other gay men in a similar position to him to build up his support networks.

He tried using social media sites but some left him feeling vulnerable and open to abuse.

George suffered a few negative experiences where people he met up with proved to be untrustworthy and either harassed him, manipulated him for money or in some cases threatened him.

A gay men’s worker from Positive East then met up with him in Havering and visited him at home.

Little by little George’s confidence and trust grew.

During a two year period other volunteers from the charity, who were also HIV positive, were introduced to George.

The volunteers accompanied him to a hospital appointment and at each step encouraged George to challenge himself and make positive steps to move forward.

Now, George is beginning to have a happier, more independent life.

Expressing an appreciation for the support he has been given George says: “My worker and all at Positive East have been a real lifeline to me.”

Positive East delivers HIV prevention and peer support services in Havering.

Contact: 020 7791 2855.

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.

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


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