Give HIV the finger: a finger-prick test is all it takes

A flagship campaign is urging Oxfordshire residents to ‘give HIV the finger’ and get themselves a finger-prick test.

National HIV Testing Week (NHTW) promotes regular testing among the most affected population groups, including those who don’t practice safe sex.

Oxfordshire County Council’s public health team is supporting NHTW, which launched on Saturday and continues until Friday.

The campaign aims to reduce the rates of undiagnosed people and those diagnosed late. In the UK, the combination prevention approach to HIV means a substantial decline in HIV diagnoses is being witnessed for the first time.

However, the work must not stop here. While the number of people being diagnosed late with HIV continues to decline, still 40% of people in Oxfordshire are later in being diagnosed than we would like to see.

The county council’s public health team exists to improve the health of local people, protect Oxfordshire people from preventable health issues and support the county’s local healthcare service – helping local residents live safe and healthy lives and play an active role in their communities.

Dr Eunan O’Neill, consultant in public health at Oxfordshire County Council, said: “The message during National HIV Testing Week is to get yourself regularly tested. If you’re regularly changing partners or practising unsafe sex you need to get yourself checked out.

“With the advances in treatment, being diagnosed with HIV means you can still live a healthy life with proper treatment. The earlier you are diagnosed with HIV and start treatment, the better the outcome for your health.

“HIV testing is freely available to everyone in a range of options to suit individual needs. This could be at their local clinic or in the privacy of their own home with an online kit in the form of a finger-prick test.

“Using a condom is one of the most effective ways of not contracting HIV or any Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD).”

Why testing is crucial

  • In total across the UK, one in eight people do not know they have HIV

  • Early diagnosis results in normal life expectancy

  • Late diagnosis leads to a tenfold increase of death within one year

  • Those who are undiagnosed spend an average of three to five years unaware they have the virus.

The ultimate goal is to increase regular HIV testing in the most affected groups. The large number of students in Oxfordshire makes them an obvious target for raising awareness.

Insight shows that young people straight out of home and off to college or university will indulge in riskier behaviour.

Chris Tuck, Head of Wellbeing at Oxford Brookes University, said: “We are right behind this campaign and urge students with multiple partners or who are practising unsafe sex to get a finger-prick test.

“The staff in Wellbeing at Oxford Brookes can point students in the right direction for appropriate support and meet with students who have any additional concerns.

“There has been great progress in the drive to stop HIV in the UK and we want to join in that by encouraging our students to live safe, healthy and happy lives.”

Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust is offering HIV point-of-care finger-prick tests at the John Radcliffe Hospital today (Monday) between 9am and 5pm and Thursday from 2pm to 5pm. These will be located on Level 2 next to the League of Friends.

World AIDS Day

World AIDS Day takes place on December 1 each year. It’s an opportunity for people 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. Founded in 1988, World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day.

More than 101,000 people are living with HIV in the UK. Globally, there are an estimated 36.7 million people who have the virus. Despite the virus only being identified in 1984, more than 35 million people have died of HIV or AIDS.

Most people show their solidarity for World AIDS Day by wearing an HIV awareness red ribbon. These can be ordered at worldaidsday.org or pick one up in a MAC cosmetics shop and selected branches of Morrisons.

Figures show we are winning the fight against HIV, but experts are worried we are losing the fight against ignorance.

There are still 101,000 people living with HIV in the UK, there is no cure, and people still face ignorance and discrimination that can limit their opportunities, preventing them from living full and happy lives. HIV means you are more likely to live in poverty, and more likely to have poor mental health.

Although the epidemic is slowing in the UK, nearly half of people who test positive are finding out they have HIV very late, meaning the virus may have damaged their health permanently.

For more information please visit test.hiv and sexualhealthoxfordshire.nhs.uk