In 2011, more than 3,000 people were accessing care for HIV in the South West. However a quarter of people with HIV locally remain undiagnosed. Someone who is diagnosed late, after the point at which they should have started treatment, is nine times more likely to die within a year of receiving their diagnosis than someone who tests in good time.

Although anyone can attend for a test during National HIV Testing Week, the Bristol Centre is particularly urging gay and bisexual men and Africans, the two groups most disproportionally affected by HIV in the UK, to take advantage of the extended opening hours.

Testing is done using a finger-prick blood test, with the results provided within one hour. Those who attend the clinic will be given information and support before and after the test, and anyone who tests positive will be referred immediately to a specialist clinic. Terrence Higgins Trust staff will also provide free condoms, and information and advice on safer sex.

National HIV Testing Week, which is planned to be an annual event, is being co-ordinated through HIV Prevention England (HPE), a partnership of community organisations funded by the Department of Health to carry out national HIV prevention work in England among communities at an increased risk of infection. It forms the centrepiece of HPE’s autumn campaign Think HIV, which aims to encourages people at high risk of HIV to test more regularly for the virus.

To take part in the campaign, gay men and Africans can visit www.thinkHIV.org.uk and complete a short survey about their sex life, to receive personalised advice about how regularly they should be testing for HIV.

Louise Sweeney, Health Promotion Specialist at Terrence Higgins Trust’s Bristol Centre said: “There are more people than ever living with HIV in the South West, yet the number of people who don’t know that they have the virus remains unacceptably high. People who are diagnosed late can face serious health problems and also risk passing on the virus unwittingly.

“By extending our opening hours for National HIV Testing Week, we want to remind people that it really is best to test. We hope to see lots of people coming through our doors throughout the week. We also hope that the new initiative will get people thinking more about testing, not just during the week, but all year round.”

Terrence Higgins Trust’s Bristol centre at Aled Richard Centre, 8-10 West Street, Old Market, Bristol, BS2 0BH will be open on Monday 26th and Wednesday 28th November from 5pm to 7.30pm for people who want to take an HIV test. No prior appointment will be required.

For more information about services and support available at Terrence Higgins Trust’s Bristol centre, please call (0117) 955 1000 or email info.bristol@tht.org.uk.

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