Leading charity say “Know your HIV status – Get tested!”

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This World AIDS Day (1st December) the Lesbian & Gay Foundation (LGF) is launching a new campaign encouraging men who have sex with men to know their own HIV status.

By the end of 2011 there will be over 100,000 people in the UK living with HIV. Today in the North West of England there are over 7,729 people living with HIV. 3,754 people received treatment for HIV in Greater Manchester alone in 2009. (Figures from Centre for Public Health at Liverpool John Moores University & the North West Health Protection Agency).

There is often a lot of confusion surrounding the statistics, but new infections happen every day amongst men who have sex with men here in the UK, whereas the majority of new infections amongst heterosexual people happen abroad.

1 in 10 men who have sex with men are HIV Positive

HIV is still a major issue for men who have sex with men. Approximately 1 in 10 gay or bisexual men *in larger cities in the UK are living with HIV, and between 25% and 30% are unaware that they are positive. (* Gay Men’s Sexual Health Survey).

Amongst men who have sex with men in the North West in 2009, there were 339 new cases of HIV infection and of these 202 were from Greater Manchester. Each one of those cases represents a person whose life has changed forever.

Let’s Talk About It

The Lesbian & Gay Foundation want to encourage men to talk about HIV and sexual health testing with their friends and partners.

Many men don’t even think about their partner’s sexual history when they are getting to know them. It is a difficult subject to talk about, but simply thinking about it is a good starting off point.

Condoms and lube still offer the best protection against HIV and Sexually Transmitted Infections, but gay and bisexual men who are having sex with different partners should be getting a full sexual health screen, including a HIV test at least once every 12 months.

Early diagnosis of HIV is crucial. In some areas of Greater Manchester, the late diagnosis rate of people with HIV is close to 50%. The reason that people present late with a HIV diagnosis is often because they were unaware that they were infected with the virus.

Peter Boyle LGF’s Community Engagement Officer says: “By testing at least once every twelve months any infection by HIV will be relatively recent, and you stand the best chance of good long term health. If you receive a positive diagnosis, your HIV specialists will be able to work out when it is best for you to start treatment. Unfortunately, if this is left too late and if the immune system has been damaged over a number of years then HIV medications will not be as effective.”

Same Day HIV Testing

The Lesbian & Gay Foundation offers same day HIV testing, with the results available within 20-30 minutes of taking the test. The Rapid HIV Testing Clinic takes place every Thursday between 4 and 6pm (the last test available is at 5:30pm) @ The LGF, Number 5, Richmond Street, Manchester, M1 3HF.

Know your status, protect yourself, protect your partner and protect your community.