The following article is reproduced from Swindon Borough Council’s Member’s Bulletin.
Swindon Borough Council’s Public Health team are encouraging residents to know their HIV status by regular testing, as this is the only way for a person to find out if they have the disease because the symptoms may not appear for many years.
A HIV-home sampling kit can be ordered at www.test.hiv which will then be home-delivered, enabling the test to be taken in privacy at home. The service is provided by MESMAC, and any positive test results are referred to Great Western Hospital.
This national programme is funded by Swindon Borough Council for residents of the Borough. Those who live in another area can check if their local area is signed up by visiting the test HIV website and entering their postcode.
HIV is a disease which can be transmitted by unprotected sex with an HIV positive person, sharing needles with infected people, from mother to baby during childbirth and breastfeeding, or through blood and blood product transfusion before widespread screening or from certain countries abroad.
In 2016, 69.7% of people in Swindon who attended Genitourinary-Medicine (GUM) Services also accepted a HIV Test, a similar figure to that of 67.7% of people in England overall.
By the end of March this year, 289 people living in Swindon were receiving treatment for HIV from Great Western Hospital.
Medication for HIV has improved significantly since the 1980s, giving those living with the disease in the UK now the chance to live a healthy life with a normal life expectancy, especially if it is discovered and treated early.
From 2013-15, 61.1% of people diagnosed with HIV in Swindon were late diagnoses, which can result in poorer health outcomes for the individual as well as greater risk of transmission to others.
Cllr Brian Ford, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Adults’ Health and Social Care, said: “It is highly important that anyone who feels they may need to take a HIV test does so as soon as possible in order to prevent late diagnoses. Identifying the disease early on leads to better outcomes for the individual than if it was found later. The service funded by the Council provides a convenient way for people in the Borough to test for HIV as it can be taken in privacy at home.”
If you are worried about HIV or other sexually transmitted infections, please contact the Great Western Sexual Health Clinic on 01793 604038, or visit www.swindonsexualhealth.nhs.uk for more information.