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.
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.
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 I educate my patients all the time about HIV, which is why I know for a fact that there are so many outdated myths that people still believe to be true.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.
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.