Campaigners put HIV testing on the parliamentary agenda

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Local campaigners met with MPs and senior primary care trust staff at a parliamentary event today to raise awareness of HIV and discuss ways to increase HIV testing.

The ‘Testing Local Leadership on HIV’ event, held at the House of Commons, was organised by the All Party Parliamentary Group on AIDS, Terrence Higgins Trust and NAT (National AIDS Trust), and sponsored by Gilead Sciences Ltd. Local campaigners met with MPs from the constituencies with the highest HIV prevalence in England – where at least 2 in 1,000 people are diagnosed with HIV.

Speakers at the event were Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, David Borrow MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on AIDS, Neil Gerrard, MP for Walthamstow and Garry Brough, an HIV campaigner. Issues discussed included offering testing in a wider range of settings, increasing opportunities for community based testing and involving GPs more in testing high risk groups, in particular gay men and Africans.

Over 77,400 people are living with HIV in the UK – more than ever before, but over a quarter of these people (approximately 20,000) are undiagnosed and nearly a third are diagnosed late. As well as risking their own health, people who remain undiagnosed also risk the health of others, as those who don’t know their HIV status account for the majority of onward transmission.

Sir Nick Partridge, Chief Executive of Terrence Higgins Trust said “At the moment, thousands of people with HIV don’t know they have it, so it’s vital we increase testing. It needs to be quick and easy to take a test and clinics should be accessible both in terms of location and opening times. We hope the MPs who came along today will encourage their local NHS to take action and make HIV testing a priority.”

Deborah Jack, Chief Executive of NAT comments “Increasing testing is one of the most significant things we can do about HIV in the UK. It requires national commitment and local action from MPs, health commissioners and those at frontline services. Working together we have a real opportunity to not only improve the health of many people who are undiagnosed but also to stop the spread of HIV.”

Anyone concerned they may have been at risk of HIV can call THT Direct on 0845 12 21 200. Details of testing clinics can also be found at www.tht.org.uk

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