Drop in HIV tests available as part of special week

: Assistant Practitioner, Elaine Martin; HIV Specialist Associate Practitioner, Shane Faulkner; HIV Clinical Nurse Specialist, Sue Potts and Blood Bourne Virus Staff nurse, Andrew Leonard

Blackpool Victoria Hospital is holding free HIV test events as part of National HIV Testing Week.

The Blood Borne Virus team, based at Whitegate Drive, will be available to test staff, patients and visitors in a bid to promote good sexual health and reduce the stigma of HIV.

The events will be held over two days on the mezzanine level of the hospital and test can be conducted in a private room.

The down-to-earth and welcoming team will also be giving away free items such as pens and red ribbons.

HIV Clinical Nurse Specialist, Sue Potts said: “HIV doesn’t hold any boundaries, anyone can be at risk.

“The treatment has changed so much since I started in this department in 1990, but there is still a lot of ignorance around the virus.”

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. This particular virus was identified in the 1980s and belongs to a group of viruses called ‘retroviruses’.

The virus attacks the immune system, and gradually causes damage. This can mean that, without treatment and care, a person with HIV is at risk of developing serious infections and cancers that a healthy immune system would fight off.

HIV is present in blood, and other body fluids such as semen and vaginal secretion.

The main ways HIV can be passed on to someone else are during unprotected vaginal/anal sex, by sharing injecting equipment, and from a mother to her baby during pregnancy, birth or through breastfeeding.

The only way to know if you have HIV is by taking the test.

Sue said: “The over 50s age group has seen a growth in contracting the virus. Not

HIV causes little in the way of symptoms and is often overlooked in the differential diagnosis of unwell patients

“It’s better to know that you have HIV as early treatment saves lives.”

Dr John Sweeney, Consultant in Genitourinary Medicine and HIV and Divisional Clinical Director for Adults and Long Term Conditions, said: “The biggest changes over the last few yew years have been how treatment of HIV has become more effective.

“Although the stigma of the condition has reduced a lot, we still have a long way to go.

“It’s a major benefit if you know your HIV status and life expectancy with HIV is near normal if regular treatment is taken.

“There has been huge advancements in treatments over the years and a test result can be given in as little as 60 seconds. Tests can even be done at home and with a dried blood spot.”

The test days will be held on November 21 and 23 from 9.00am to 4.00pm. Everyone is welcome.

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