Anne, HIV Prevention Coordinator at the Brunswick Centre.
It is National HIV testing week (7th to 13th February 2022) and I would like to tell you why it’s important to get tested and to know your HIV status.
Part of my job is to offer free, rapid (results in 10 minutes) HIV tests in a variety of settings and venues.
I love my job and meet some amazing people from all walks of life, but it also brings me great sadness to listen to the anguish some people must go through before finally having an HIV test.
Some people have lived with the fear for years that they may have HIV and are too afraid to test to confirm this either way, this in turn can prevent them from having sex as they are too scared to in case, they pass the virus on to a sexual partner. For others, there can be real anxiety around what the result will be, and for some they are anxious about the actual test itself, as often don’t realise it is just a simple finger prick test. All of this can impact massively on someone’s mental health and wellbeing.
It’s been said to me many times whilst testing someone that although they know they haven’t been at risk of HIV and it’s just a peace of mind test, there is still that fear in the back of their minds around the result of the test.
Let me try and offer some reassurance here around why people need to test whatever the result.
The earlier someone is diagnosed as living with HIV the earlier lifesaving treatment can start, people can live long healthy lives with early detection of HIV and proper treatment and care.
There are still around 6,700 people in the UK living with HIV but are undiagnosed.
People on effective HIV treatment can’t pass the virus on to anyone else.
An HIV test can also open the door to knowing about and accessing the range HIV prevention options available to keep themselves and their partners HIV negative.
It is fantastic that the physical impact of HIV is being addressed but unfortunately this is not always the case around the psychological impact.
The stigma, fear and misunderstanding of HIV is still out there and impacting on people’s lives and mental health.
Mental health and HIV are intertwined for several reasons, people living with HIV are more likely to have poor mental health, and people with poor mental health are more likely to be at risk of HIV.
We are so proud to be working in partnership with Happy Valley Pride around the Mind Your Head Campaign raising awareness about mental health issues in the LGBTQ+ community and how to access support.
I hope after reading this you will think about having an HIV test and get to know your status too, please come along to one of our sessions or book a test with us.
It would be great to see you.