Dec 01 2013

Harrow Council Marking World Aids Day

harrow_council_logoHarrow Council is marking World Aids Day (December 1) by urging people in the borough to get tested for HIV.

The number of people living with HIV in Harrow increased by a third (34 per cent) between 2007 and 2011. More than half of those (51 per cent) being diagnosed between 2009-11 were at a late stage of the infection.

The Council recently signed up to the Pan London HIV Prevention programme 2013-14, signalling its commitment to promoting the prevention of HIV infections, access to sexual health services and early diagnosis.

Cllr Simon Williams, Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, said: “While many scientific advances have been made in treating HIV and we know a great deal more about the condition, too many people do not know the facts about how to protect themselves and others from HIV. Stigma and discrimination remains a reality for many people living with HIV and on World AIDS Day it is important to remind ourselves that HIV and AIDS have not gone away. With more than half of people catching HIV from someone who did not know themselves they had it, it is essential that we as a Council still promote a public health message of prevention and testing.”

More than 90 per cent of people with HIV were infected through sexual contact. While anybody who has unprotected sex can become infected, HIV is most prevalent in two main groups: gay or bisexual men and black African people. Late diagnosis is a particular problem in London where more than half of all diagnoses are late, particularly among black heterosexual people.

Dr Andrew Shaw, a leading consultant at Northwick Park Hospital Genito-Urinary Medicine (GUM) Clinic – said: “HIV is now a treatable infection. Once someone is diagnosed we can provide very effective medication to stop them becoming unwell, and make it difficult for them to transmit HIV to others. We expect people with HIV to live long and healthy lives, to be able to raise a family, and be productive members of society – just like anyone else. World Aids Day remains as important as ever, particularly if it leads to more testing and greater understanding and acceptance for those living with the condition. Anyone who feels uncomfortable asking their GP for an HIV test can go to a walk-in GUM or Sexual Health Clinic and have a test.”

Some more facts about HIV:

  • You can now get tested for HIV using a saliva sample
  • HIV is not passed on through saliva: kissing, spitting, biting or sharing utensils
  • You can get the results of an HIV test in just 15-20 minutes
  • Only one per cent of babies born to HIV positive mothers become HIV positive
  • Although treatments are available, there is no vaccine and no cure for HIV

For confidential advice or information on HIV or to arrange an HIV test in Harrow please contact the Caryl Thomas Clinic on 020 3182 8336 for an appointment.

You can also show your support for people living with HIV on World AIDS Day by wearing a red ribbon, the international symbol of HIV awareness and support.

Case Study

John Smith (name has been changed), from Harrow, tells his story about living with HIV: “Worlds AIDS Day is 25 this year – a silver anniversary that we share. It was first held the same month that I was tested for HIV, it took three weeks to get the result then and it was a real shock to be told that I was positive. Back then things were very different and it really did seem like a death sentence. It was 1988 and I was in my later 20s. I thought I would be lucky to make it to my 30th birthday and as for 40 well even the doctors didn’t think that would happen. But I am now in my 50s and I am still here. I have seen so many changes over the years. Then there was just one drug available and that only on special licence. I watched many people that were diagnosed over the next few years die. Now there are a range of drugs available and more people are surviving and living with the virus. One thing that has not changed so much is the fear that some people have of people who are HIV positive, so I am still not using my real name to talk about this. I now know that I am lucky as I was diagnosed early so could be treated which is one of the reasons that I am still healthy. Of course my diagnosis is a huge thing for me but I don’t let it dominate my life. I am glad to be alive and determined to enjoy more years of living.”

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