200 people in Plymouth are living with HIV – that know about it – but hundreds more are out there. Health reporter Charlotte Turner got tested to show how easy it is
Today is World AIDS Day.
The annual marker is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, to show support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate those who have died from an AIDS-related illness. A shocking figure from 2015 showed that 41.1 per cent of HIV positive people in the South West were diagnosed late, meaning their risk of death within the first year increased tenfold. These stark figures show just how important it is to get yourself checked, and it’s extremely simple to get it done in Plymouth. One charity which is paving the way for HIV awareness is The Eddystone Trust, located on Whimple Street in the city centre. I went along to one of their weekly drop-ins for HIV testing, where you can get advice on sexual health, come in for a chat as well as getting checked.
Andrew Evans, director of operations at The Eddystone Trust talked through the process of testing in the informal environment; I was expecting a clinical room with a bed, but instead, I was pleasantly surprised to find a cosy room with armchairs.
I took an INSTI HIV test, which gives you results in just 60 seconds. This test not only gives you a quick result but it also detects syphilis. All I needed to do was present a finger for a lancet to poke a little hole in my finger so Andrew could suck a few drops of blood up in a pipette. The blood is mixed with three different solutions in a petri dish right in front of you, and gives results much like a pregnancy test.
First a single dot pops up to show the test has worked and if you have a HIV positive result, a dot appears below this and if you have syphilis, a dot appears to the left. was all clear; and although I was sure it would be, you never know until you have a test.
A second type of rapid test for HIV can also be undertaken, in which you get your results in 20 minutes. If it turns out you are positive, The Eddystone Trust will help with referring you for further testing and support you along the way with information about the virus. You can get or transmit HIV only through specific activities. Most commonly, people get or transmit HIV through sex or needle use.
What it’s like living with HIV in Plymouth
HIV is not spread easily; only certain body fluids from a person who has HIV can transmitted via blood, semen, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids or breast milk, which must come in contact with damaged tissue, mucous membranes, or be directly injected into your bloodstream.
Andrew said: “We aim to promote and increase HIV testing in all areas; it is better to test sooner as a late diagnosis can damage your body and even shorten your life.
“We want to expand rapid HIV testing across the South West, working with our partner organizations on testing and HIV, to promote and increase professionals access to training and seminars on the topics of sexual health and HIV.”
In Plymouth alone, The Eddystone Trust has seen a 33 per cent increase in testing at their sites in 12 months to September 2017.
Nationally, the forecast is that approximately 13 per cent of those with HIV do not know their status, and in order to get these people diagnosed testing is still critical.
If you would like more information or to take a HIV test, you can visit The Eddystone Trust at 11 Whimple Street, second floor suite, every Thursday between 5.30-7.30pm.
Read more: Plymouthherald.co.uk