A new drive to encourage people across Bedford to test for HIV has been launched by the UK’s largest HIV and sexual health charity, Terrence Higgins Trust.
Anyone living in Bedford can now order a free postal HIV test which takes a few minutes to do, with results available a few days later.
By entering their postcode into a test finder, people can order their free kit which arrives in plain packaging through their letter box.
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In 2018, over half (56 per cent) of people diagnosed with HIV in Bedford were diagnosed at a late stage, compared to 43 per cent across the whole of England.
A late diagnosis can be bad for an individual’s health, that’s why regular testing for groups at increased risk of HIV, including gay and bisexual men, trans and Black African communities is important.
The launch of the campaign comes as a recent nationwide survey by Terrence Higgins Trust and sexual health clinic 56 Dean Street, found the vast majority (84 per cent) of people are abstaining from sex outside of their immediate household because of the Covid-19 lockdown.
This means that for anyone who has not had sex since the start of lockdown, if they test for HIV now, they will get an accurate test. That’s because it can take up to a month from potential HIV exposure for tests to detect the virus.
Support is available for anyone who receives a positive result and effective treatment means that people living with HIV cannot pass on the virus.
Huw Williams, Bedford Service Manager at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: "This is an incredible opportunity to break the chain on HIV infections in Bedford and help move us further forward in achieving our goal of ending HIV transmissions.
"Across Bedford we’re determined to make HIV testing as easy as possible and I’d encourage anyone to order a free test today, because this chance to beat HIV won’t wait and won’t come around again.
‘It’s estimated that around 7,500 people in the UK are living with undiagnosed HIV, which prevents them accessing effective treatment to improve their health, and means they may unwittingly pass it on.
"If everyone is able to use their time in lockdown to get tested and know their HIV status, we can ensure something really good comes out of the devastation of the Covid crisis.’
How to get tested for HIV:
- Terrence Higgins Trust HIV self testing kits
- Free kit posted to you, fast result there and then, available to groups most affected by HIV. Available from https://test.tht.org.uk/- iCaSH postal express test kit. Free sampling kit for various STIs including HIV. Available from www.icash.nhs.uk/expresstest- National HIV self sampling programme. Free kit posted to you. Available from https://www.freetesting.hiv/.
Those who receive a reactive result will still be able to access the face-to-face support necessary to confirm the result and access free HIV treatment, with social distancing measures in place for Covid-19 safety.
Psychological support is also available, with Terrence Higgins Trust offering free online counselling to anyone living with HIV.
Anyone can be affected by HIV but the groups most impacted by the virus are particularly encouraged to test. In the UK that is gay and bisexual men, men and women from Black African communities, and trans people.