What do we know about HIV and coronavirus (COVID-19)?

28 May 2020

We know that HIV treatment is important for the health of people living with HIV. It enables individuals to maintain an undetectable viral load (reducing it to a level that tests cannot detect) and gives the immune system the stability and strength it requires to fight off infections and disease, including respiratory conditions caused by COVID-19. People living with HIV on effective HIV treatment can’t pass it on during sex, so HIV treatment is also good for both you and your sexual partner.

As a new disease, scientists are still continuing to learn a lot about COVID-19, the novel coronavirus. However, evidence suggests that healthy people living with HIV who are on effective medication are no more likely to be affected by the disease than the general population.

HIV treatment is important

If you have HIV, the sooner you find out you have it, the better it is for your health. You can start treatment and it’s much less likely to have a negative impact on your health or the length of your life.

If you have HIV for a long time without knowing, it can damage your health and shorten your life. The only way to know if you have HIV is to take an HIV test – as you can have HIV without any symptoms for more than three years. It’s a good idea to test whenever you change sexual partners and you are not using protection (condoms or PrEP). We recommend at least once a year, or more often if necessary.

Knowing you have HIV now will give you the opportunity to start HIV treatment, give your immune system the best chance to stay strong and healthy – and fight off COVID-19 should you become infected.

If you are living with HIV and aren’t currently taking HIV medication it is recommended you contact your clinic to discuss starting it. HIV testing, treatment and care is free in the UK, regardless of immigration status.

Changing HIV treatment

It was initially thought that certain HIV medications might be effective against coronavirus (COVID-19). However, there’s no strong evidence that this is the case and there’s no need to change your HIV treatment if it’s working well for you.

What if I am classed as vulnerable or have a low CD4 count?

Even though some lockdown measures are easing in England, people who have been advised to shield in their homes should continue to do so until the end of June. This applies to you if you’re living with HIV and have a CD4 count of less than 50 or had an opportunistic infection in the past six months.

If you live with HIV and another long-term condition, particularly respiratory illnesses or diabetes, you may have also been advised to shield by your GP or other healthcare professionals.

If you have concerns about returning to work or are a key worker, contact THT Direct who can offer you support and advice.

What should I do if I am admitted to hospital with COVID-19?

People living with HIV are strongly recommended to tell the nurses and doctors looking after them about all their medical conditions, including HIV. This helps them to give you the right medication and tests.

You should continue to take your HIV medication when in hospital; you’ll have the best chance of fighting COVID-19 if your viral load remains undetectable and your immune system stable.

Important points

  • You should test for HIV at least once a year. If you receive a positive diagnosis you can start HIV treatment immediately and this’ll help to keep your immune system healthy.
  • If you are living with HIV continue to take your HIV treatment, it’ll offer you the best chance of successfully fighting COVID-19 should you become infected.
  • If you are classified as a vulnerable person, continue to follow shielding advice. Should you end up in hospital, make sure they’re aware you have HIV.

More information

Get more information on HIV and COVID-19:

Sex and your sexual health during lockdown

28 April 2020

ISWM Summer 2019 - Bisi

We’re here to answer the top five questions you might have during this time of social distancing.

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen huge changes to our lives, including our sex lives. With the Government advice on social distancing, people have been advised not to leave their homes to meetup with anyone, but this has resulted in many questions about how to look after our sexual health during these challenging times.

Can I still have sex during lockdown?

Unless you are having sex with someone else living in your home, the guidance is that you shouldn’t be meeting up with anyone.

This isn’t about your sexual health, this is to protect your general health and people around you who could be vulnerable to coronavirus. Regardless if it’s someone you regularly hook-up with or even your partner, if they live outside your home, meeting up for sex is off the cards for the time being.

That’s because no one should be leaving their home other than for the reasons outlined by the Government (exercise, buying essential items, medical reasons or going to work). The more times you go outside, the greater risk you have in coming into contact with the virus.

It’s also worth remembering that even if you don’t have any symptoms, you might still be infectious. It’s estimated that one in three people who contract coronavirus will show no symptoms.

But fear not, there are still plenty of alternative ways to have sex, such as using toys, phone sex and of course masturbation. All of these have zero risk of passing on coronavirus. Our favourite sexual health nurse, Sarah Mulindwa, has written a great blog post on why it’s time to end the shame of female masturbation.

Are sexual health clinics still open?

Check your local sexual health clinic to find out what services they are providing.

To free up capacity elsewhere in the NHS, sexual health clinics have greatly reduced or closed their face-to-face services for non-urgent care. This means that if you don’t have any sexually transmitted infection (STI) symptoms, it’s unlikely you’ll get seen.

For anyone with symptoms or needed urgent assistance, for example PEP, you can still get in touch with your clinic by telephone in the first instance. Walk-in appointments are no longer available so it is important you do not attempt to visit a clinic without contacting them first.

We advise that everyone who is sexually active tests at least once a year for HIV, along with regular STI screenings.

Postal testing for STIs and HIV are still available in many parts of the country. This usually involves taking a small sample of body fluids and posting it back to a lab, with results sent by text message or email a few days later.

Alternatively, if you want to use an HIV self testing kit, where you get to read your own results, you can order one online from a number of retailers or from Terrence Higgins Trust’s Fastest site. If you need treatment, you will still be able to access it.

Where can I get condoms?

Across the country, a number of local councils and sexual health organisations are offering free condom postal schemes for people at risk of poor sexual health. Check out your local sexual health clinic or organisation for more details.

If you’re not able to source free condoms by post most pharmacies and supermarkets remain open and will stock condoms and lube, and a larger variety can usually be found from online health retailers.

While many of us have a little more time on our hands, now is the perfect time to do your homework on finding the perfect fit when it comes to condoms. Take our condom quiz and answer just three quick questions and we’ll recommend condoms to suit you or your partner.

Should I still be taking PrEP?

The decision on whether to continue taking PrEP is a personal one. If you do decide to stop taking PrEP during lockdown, it’s really important to do so safely – how to do this is different for different people.

However, if you are having regular sex with someone in your household and there is an increased risk of HIV transmission, then continue taking PrEP as prescribed. If you are accessing PrEP through the NHS England trial, your trial site should be in contact when you are due a new prescription.

I’m living with HIV, do I need to self-isolate for three months?

In line with guidance issued by Terrence Higgins Trust and British HIV Association (BHIVA), people who have well-controlled HIV i.e. a CD4 of 200 or more, are not at any greater risk from coronavirus.

You should follow the social distancing guidance issued by the Government to the general population. If you have any other health conditions which may increase your risk from COVID-19, or a CD4 count of less than 50, it’s advised you self-isolate or ‘shield’ for three months to protect yourself.

If you have any concerns about your own situation, you should contact your HIV clinic.

Female masturbation is empowering, not shameful

6 April 2020

By: Sarah Mulindwa, sexual health nurse

Being on lockdown is new and strange for all of us. Physically, mentally and – now you’ve got your head around it – sexually. The Government has told everyone to stay at home and to stop all non-essential journeys and activities. So that means:

  • Travelling to the local supermarket for food – essential
  • Going to work (only if necessary, i.e NHS workers) – essential
  • Going to get your medication – essential
  • Taking a trip to your boyfriend or sexual partner’s house to have sex – NOT ESSENTIAL!

Now I know the last one may feel like an essential at times. Don’t get me wrong, it’s completely natural to want to have sex not just for pleasure, but to help release stress and anxiety that may be resurfacing, especially in such uncertain times.

With people being made redundant and facing financial restraints, you may be looking for a sexual relief. But unfortunately self-isolation has now become our ‘new normal’, so for right now you have to find other ways to achieve sexual pleasure and satisfaction.

In accordance with the rules, you can only have sex with someone in your immediate household and can’t go back and forth between you and partner’s places. This is to slow the spread of COVID-19, reduce the burden on the NHS and protect the most vulnerable in society.

So, unless your partner’s living with you, until the Government’s instructions regarding self- isolation are lifted, you are your only source of sexual pleasure. Now I’m sure you know where I’m going with this. Female masturbation and pleasure are still very much a taboo topic in society today. Even when reading this, I’m sure some woman somewhere cringed at the very mention of the words.

No one knows for certain why there is so much stigma around female pleasure and masturbation. Although, some may argue the fact that women are able to take control of their sexual pleasure without men’s involvement is something our patriarchal society is yet to come to terms with.

Because, let’s face it, a woman being able to do anything without a man is prosperous, right? (Rolls eyes.)

While this concept may be true of society, it’s extremely harmful because it then results in masturbation being perceived as something only men can do – which is obviously not the case!

Normalising female masturbation

You’ve all heard the saying desperate times call for desperate measures. Now even though you shouldn’t refer to female masturbation as desperate measures (because it’s natural) the reality of it is – you can’t go and visit your boyfriend, you can’t hook up with anyone and you can’t go around your ex’s house for ‘closure’ (I would suggest you all refrain from doing the latter, coronavirus or not – let’s leave exes in the past).

The sexual response cycle has four key stages: Desire, Arousal, Orgasm and Resolution. With each come waves of hormonal changes and fluctuations. In other words, stimulation will lower the hormones that cause you stress (a hormone called cortisol) and heighten your good hormones (endorphins).

The latter triggers a rush and release feeling. You ever hear people say how much better they feel after a work out? Well, masturbation releases stress and tension in the same or very similar way. Because your brain is in high activation during this time, it means you’re getting high levels of oxygen in your brain, which has a multitude of benefits.

So what better time to explore your sexual desires and pleasures alone thus normalising female masturbation, than when the Government has confined you to the four walls of your room (not literally, obviously). Female masturbation doesn’t only give women the power to control our sexual needs, but it also sends a clear message out to society that it’s OK for women to pleasure ourselves without the assistance of men – it’s empowering!

During these uncertain scary times, everyone needs to play our part in ensuring we lessen the chances of coronavirus spreading and the best way to do that is by STAYING AT HOME.

Sarah Mulindwa is a sexual health nurse.

How to use condoms: a mini-guide

13 February 2020

Nothing says mood killer more than watching someone struggle to use a condom which is why we are here to help you master them.

How to put on a condom

Imagine, there you are at the height of intimacy with your partner and you look over to see them wrestling with the condom wrapper… and if that’s not enough of a mood killer for you then watching them struggle to put the condom on definitely will be.

We’re not trying to shame anyone here, but we all have to admit that watching someone struggle to use a condom isn’t exactly a turn-on now is it? Not only can it be a mood killer, but it may result in the condom being put on incorrectly. Some have struggled so much that they have abandoned using condoms altogether.

Condoms can only protect you against STIs, HIV and unplanned pregnancies if they’re used correctly. So here is our step-by-step guide to getting to grips with how to use them:

STEP ONE: Open the packet CAREFULLY

After checking that the condom is not past its use-by date (the use-by date is printed on the wrapper), open the packet carefully.

Don’t tear the packet open forcefully or worse try to be sexy by opening it with your teeth. (Yes, some people do that – don’t ask us how we know…) Take your time and open it slowly to make sure you don’t damage the condom inside the packet.


STEP TWO: Put it on the right way around

The rim (which is the thick circular part) should be on the outside, that way it will unroll easily and most importantly quickly! If you put your condom on a flat surface and it doesn’t look like a little hat – and the rim part is facing inwards, you’re about to put it on the wrong way.


STEP THREE: Pinch the tip

Pinch the tip of the condom and place it on the head of your fully erect penis. Be sure to leave some space at the top to collect your semen. If you’re uncircumcised, it might be more comfortable to pull your foreskin back before placing the condom on the tip of your penis and rolling it down.


STEP FOUR: Unroll it

Unroll the condom down the shaft of your penis all the way to the base. If you want you can add lube to the outside of the condom after it’s on your penis. Water-based or silicone lube can make sex feel even better, and it helps stop condoms from breaking. Remember, there is no shame in reaching for the lube!

Be sure not to use any oil-based lubricants because they can damage condoms and may cause them to break


STEP FIVE: Get rid of it

Once you’ve ejaculated, hold onto the rim of the condom and pull your penis out of your partner’s body. Carefully take off the condom away from your partner so you don’t accidentally spill semen on them. If you want to avoid making a mess then be sure to do this before your penis goes soft – that way the semen stays in the condom and doesn’t spill.

We’re sure we don’t have to tell you what to do next – THROW IT AWAY! Don’t flush condoms – they’re bad for the environment and could block your toilet.

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT:

If the scenario at the beginning of this blog seems oh too familiar then practice. Some people use a banana, some a cucumber or some just use the real thing.


Find the best condom for you

Your choice of condom makes a huge difference to how good they feel and how well they work.

Take our condom quiz to find out which condom is best for you.

Five common condom excuses debunked.

13 February 2020

It’s Valentine’s Day, which means it’s also National Condom Day. Falling on the same day makes a lot of sense when you think about it. But how many lovers will give these familiar reasons to not use condoms this Valentine’s Day?

With nearly half a million (447,694) cases of STIs diagnosed in England in 2018 alone – that’s one every 70 seconds – now is a great time for us to talk about using condoms. When used correctly and consistently they can help protect against HIV, other STIs and unplanned pregnancies.

We’ve rounded up some common reasons people give for not using condoms and come up with some responses, to help you fall in love… with condoms.


‘They are too tight/loose’

The right condom is out there for everyone, it’s not one size fits all, though a regular condom will fit most. If you bought a jumper and it was too tight/loose what would you do? Return it and buy one that fits, right? And the same rule applies to condoms (apart from the return part). If your condoms are too tight then it means they’re probably too small for you, and you should do what you’d do with the jumper – get the size that fits.

Check out our condom quiz to check which size you need.


‘I want a ‘natural’ feeling’

From Durex to Pasante to Skyn – nearly every brand of condoms out there has an ultra-thin option. Some people who’ve used them say they feel just like skin to skin contact and without compromising durability as they are equally as strong as regular condoms.


‘They ruin the mood’

If you’re fumbling around in the dark not quite knowing how to use them, then yes, they can ruin the mood. This is why we created a step-by-step mini-guide on how to use condoms. If you’ve fumbled around once or twice with condoms then it might be best to get some practice first. You’ll soon be able to get a condom on with ease and be ready for action in no time!


‘Don’t you trust me?’

Asking your partner to use a condom has nothing to do with trust; it’s about protecting your sexual health. Do not, we repeat, DO NOT let anyone make you feel as if your trust in them should be measured by your decision to use a condom, especially if they haven’t been tested regularly. No one should ever make you feel bad for wanting to use a condom.


‘I’m on the pill’

If your partner is on the pill that means she can’t get pregnant, it DOES NOT mean that you’re immune from getting an STI. The pill is exactly what it says on the box – a contraceptive. And no, it won’t protect you against STIs.


Find the best condom for you

Your choice of condom makes a huge difference to how good they feel and how well they work.

Take our condom quiz to find out which condom is best for you.

Our Top 5 HIV Testing Week Moments of 2019

23 December 2019

HIV Testing Week in 2019 was a star-studded affair. But it’s almost time to say goodbye to 2019 and hello to 2020. Here’s a roundup of our top 5 moments from the last year.


Dr Ranj does an HIV test on This Morning 

Dr Ranj proved just how easy it is to test for HIV at home when he took an HIV test on ITV’s This Morning. Speaking to Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby live during National HIV Testing Week, Dr Ranj stressed the importance of getting tested and knowing your status.


The Duke of Sussex and Gareth Thomas discuss normalising HIV testing

The Duke of Sussex heard from Welsh rugby star Gareth Thomas about how his HIV diagnosis has inspired him to live his life to the fullest and educate others about the virus. In the video Prince Harry praised Gareth for raising public awareness of HIV.


Austin Armacost features on the front cover of Boyz Magazine

Austin Armacost on Boyz Magazine

Celebrity Big Brother star Austin Armacost spoke to Boyz about why he decided to get involved in National HIV Testing Week and why he is continuing to encourage everyone to know their status.

Read the full article here.


Sarah Mulindwa and Horcelie Sinda address stigma in the black African community on Channel 5 News

HIV campaigner Horcelie Sinda and Sarah Mulindwa from E4’s The Sex Clinic spoke to Channel 5 News about HIV stigma within the black African community. These conversations are important because worryingly, late diagnosis is still a huge problem amongst black African communities.


Greg Owen shares his HIV diagnosis story and pleads with gay and bisexual men to get tested

Terrence Higgins Trust’s Greg Owen shared his HIV diagnosis story with Attitude magazine. Greg revealed why raising awareness about the importance of knowing your status means so much to him as he encouraged the gay community to challenge outdated views about HIV.

Read the full article here.


 

Do your bit to end transmission of HIV in the UK by getting tested.

It is extremely important to get tested for HIV regularly as it is the only way to know for sure if you have HIV or not. If you have HIV, the earlier you find out the sooner you can access life-saving treatment and support enabling you to live a long and healthy life.

In most cases, HIV is passed on because people are not aware they have it and the longer you live with undiagnosed HIV the more likely it is for it to seriously damage your immune system.

Sarah Mulindwa – HIV is no longer a death sentence

14 December 2019

As a qualified sexual health nurse and star of E4’s The Sex Clinic, Sarah Mulwindwa is passionate about raising awareness of the importance of HIV testing. Sarah tells us why she got involved with National HIV Testing Week.

Sarah Mulindwa

It’s amazing to see all the new innovative ways there are to get tested nowadays. From postal test kits to walk-in clinics – there is no excuse not to get tested.

I remember my first time being tested. It was when I had just become a qualified nurse. Initially, I found the experience nerve-wracking, which I think is a rational emotion to feel when going through any kind of test. However, I was lucky enough to have an amazing doctor who talked me through the whole process and made me feel comfortable.

Getting tested at first may appear to be scary. But it’s important to remember that knowing your status is a lot better than not knowing. If you don’t know your status, this can not only have an impact on your health but can also put your partner(s) at risk unintentionally.

I want to make sure that I’m doing my part to help raise awareness about the importance of HIV testing amongst our community.

Not testing is not going to stop you from being HIV positive, but what it can do is delay treatment. Recent stats have proven that black African communities still have a worrying number of late diagnoses which we know is not good at all.

Late diagnosis means that you’ve tested positive for HIV after the virus has already started to damage your immune system, this is what we want to avoid. Which is why the sooner you get tested and get on treatment the better.

I want to make sure that I’m doing my part to help raise awareness about the importance of HIV testing amongst our community.

We have made great strides into developing effective HIV treatment however, stigma still seems to be stuck in the 80s. I think there is still such a stigma within our community because we have to take into account that many of the elder generations back in the 80s have witnessed loved ones die from AIDS-related illnesses. So their experience with HIV would be completely different to someone who was born into a world where effective HIV treatment was a thing.

Working as a qualified nurse in sexual health and HIV for over eight years now, I care for patients who are HIV positive, or who maybe anguish about contracting HIV. I educate my patients all the time about HIV, which is why I know for a fact that there are so many outdated myths that people still believe to be true.

I want to do my part to ensure that not only everyone is getting tested, but being educated on the realities of HIV in modern society. It’s no longer a death sentence.


Get tested

Do your bit to end transmission of HIV in the UK by getting tested.

It is extremely important to get tested for HIV regularly as it is the only way to know for sure if you have HIV or not. If you have HIV, the earlier you find out the sooner you can access life-saving treatment and support enabling you to live a long and healthy life.

In most cases, HIV is passed on because people are not aware they have it and the longer you live with undiagnosed HIV the more likely it is for it to seriously damage your immune system.

Lucian Msamati – Why I got Involved with National HIV Testing Week

4 December 2019

Star of stage and screen Lucian Msamati tells us why he’s so passionate about supporting the Give HIV the Finger campaign and normalising HIV testing amongst the British African community.

Lucian Msmati

Every time I test for HIV I am always slightly nervous. I think everyone is nervous when getting tested, especially if it’s your first time. But it’s important to know your status. There is nothing to be afraid of. Getting tested is a sure way to ensure that you’re making your sexual health a priority.

Testing for HIV is free, fast and most importantly confidential; you can now even do it at home thanks to free postal test kits. If you have HIV, the sooner you find out you have it, the better it is for your health. You can start treatment and it is much less likely to have a negative impact on your health or the length of your life.

HIV and AIDS have had a massive effect on the African communities both ‘at home’ and in the diasporas. Growing up in Zimbabwe and Tanzania, even now in an age and times where there is a lot more information and knowledge surrounding HIV and AIDS, we are still in many cases battling societal and cultural norms, taboos and habits that stigmatise HIV even though we know that with effective treatment HIV infection need no longer be the death sentence it once was.

If you have HIV, the sooner you find out you have it, the better it is for your health. You can start treatment and it is much less likely to have a negative impact on your health or the length of your life.

As a black British African man, I think it’s important for me to stand up and be counted. I am very blessed to have the opportunity to use my platform to raise awareness about issues that affect not just myself but also my community. I have lost friends and family to AIDS in the past and at times it’s still difficult for us to acknowledge this.

Knowing that if my family and friends who were affected by HIV were alive today they’d be able to go on effective HIV treatment is bittersweet for me. It’s amazing that we now have the treatment that means that people living with HIV can not only live long and healthy lives but can also not pass it onto their sexual partners.

I want to make sure I am playing my part to ensure that people within my community not only know this but are encouraged to get tested and know their status. If you do anything this National HIV Testing Week, I say go and get tested.

I’m proud to be part of the Give HIV the Finger campaign and play my part in debunking HIV stigma and encouraging people to get tested. It’s time for us to make a change within our communities and look after ourselves and each other by getting tested regularly.


Get tested

Do your bit to end transmission of HIV in the UK by getting tested.

It is extremely important to get tested for HIV regularly as it is the only way to know for sure if you have HIV or not. If you have HIV, the earlier you find out the sooner you can access life-saving treatment and support enabling you to live a long and healthy life.

In most cases, HIV is passed on because people are not aware they have it and the longer you live with undiagnosed HIV the more likely it is for it to seriously damage your immune system.

DJ Fat Tony – Why I’m Involved with National HIV Testing Week

20 November 2019

We caught up with famous DJ Fat Tony to discuss why he’s involved with this year’s National HIV Testing Week.

Fat Tony, NHTW 2019

I think it’s really important to play my part in raising awareness for issues that affect gay men such as myself. Gay and bisexual men are still one of the hardest-hit communities for HIV, and I believe we need more popular figures within our community to take a stand and help raise awareness about the importance of getting tested and knowing your status.

Knowing your status is something to be proud of. If you have HIV, the sooner you find out you have it, the better it is for your health. If everyone played their part in helping raise awareness about the importance of testing, we could be looking at the possibility of ending new HIV transmissions and stigma altogether. It’s amazing to think that this could soon be a reality, especially when we look back at the detrimental impact HIV once had on the gay community back in the early 80s.

HIV treatment has drastically changed over the years, we just need to make sure that the stigma associated with it is also being tackled. Although we may not see the huge HIV campaign posters and public health announcements plastered everywhere as we did back then, this doesn’t mean that HIV has gone away. It’s still rife in many communities in the UK and it’s time we address it.

If everyone played their part in helping raise awareness about the importance of testing, we could be looking at the possibility of ending new HIV transmissions and stigma altogether.

Although organisations like Terrence Higgins Trust have done so much to help debunk stigma, there are still many misconceptions about HIV in society today. It’s shocking to know that in 2019, people not only still think HIV and AIDS are the same thing, but also still associate death with HIV. This is strange to me especially when we all now know that people on effective HIV treatment can now live long healthy lives.

I do believe the gay community as a whole are very much informed about the realities of HIV in today’s society there are still many of us who may still be afraid to get tested. Knowing your status is nothing to be afraid of. The fear is in not knowing which is why I encourage everyone to fight the fear and get tested.

I was scared when I first got tested, it’s natural to feel a bit nervous your first time but it’s important to remember that no matter what the results say, thanks to treatment you can still live your life as normal. Just remember to take your medication and your good to go.


Get tested

Do your bit to end transmission of HIV in the UK by getting tested.

It is extremely important to get tested for HIV regularly as it is the only way to know for sure if you have HIV or not. If you have HIV, the earlier you find out the sooner you can access life-saving treatment and support enabling you to live a long and healthy life.

In most cases, HIV is passed on because people are not aware they have it and the longer you live with undiagnosed HIV the more likely it is for it to seriously damage your immune system.

Dr Ranj – Why I’m involved with National HIV Testing Week

18 November 2019

We caught up with NHS doctor and TV personality Dr Ranj Singh to find out why he’s supporting National HIV Testing Week.

Ranj, NHTW 2019

Give HIV The Finger is one of the most prominent and popular campaigns that we have in the UK regarding HIV testing. I see the posters everywhere on the bus, on the train and even at work. I got involved in this year’s campaign because as a gay man from an ethnic minority I represent both groups that are drastically affected by HIV in the UK.

From an ethnic minority perspective, we are less likely to come forward, get tested. Even talking about sexual health, in general, is something many just don’t do. Sadly because talking about sex is still a taboo in many communities, many are still very reluctant to get tested and/or get on treatment.

I have wanted to get involved in this campaign for years, and this year the timing was just perfect. I wanted to offer my support to a cause that I believe we all need to be talking more about. It’s great to know that I am now in the position where I can utilise my platform to help educate people on the importance of getting tested and knowing your status.

Sometimes it takes seeing someone who looks like you being represented in campaigns like this to give you the push to go and get tested, and if seeing my face on a poster can encourage at least one person to get tested then I’ll be happy. It’s unfortunate that people’s misconceptions of HIV can deter them from getting tested. Even though we have made so many advances since the 80s, the stigma still remains.

It’s great to know that I am now in the position where I can utilise my platform to help educate people on the importance of getting tested and knowing your status.

I have looked after patients who have HIV, some of my close friends are living with HIV and I must confess that when I was a lot younger due to my lack of knowledge, my opinion of what it was like to live with HIV was clouded by fear. But as society’s understanding and perceptions have changed, so have mine.

Getting tested is nothing to be worried about, I’ve been tested in the past and it’s quick and easy. You’ll be in a better situation knowing your status than not knowing. If you do test positive it’s important to remember HIV is not a death sentence anymore. With effective treatment, people living with HIV can not only live long health lives but they can’t pass it on to others. So no matter what the results are you’re better off knowing either way. You have a responsibility to yourself and your partner(s) to ensure that you look after your sexual health, and part of doing so is getting tested regularly.


Get tested

Do your bit to end transmission of HIV in the UK by getting tested this National HIV Testing Week, 16 – 22 November 2019.

It is extremely important to get tested for HIV regularly as it is the only way to know for sure if you have HIV or not. If you have HIV, the earlier you find out the sooner you can access life-saving treatment and support enabling you to live a long and healthy life.

In most cases, HIV is passed on because people are not aware they have it and the longer you live with undiagnosed HIV the more likely it is for it to seriously damage your immune system.