Cambridge Practice in England First for HIV Testing Week
This week every Cambridge GP Practice patient 18 and over with a mobile number will get a text message offering them a free HIV and STI test. 6-12 February is National HIV Testing Week and Rushmoor is an area of ‘high’ HIV prevalence – with an estimated population living with HIV of more than two per thousand adults. Some will be diagnosed, many undiagnosed or currently not receiving care.
This pilot – a first in England, having previously trialled in Cardiff and the Vale in South Wales – is being run with the support of Hampshire County Council, Terrence Higgins Trust and Solent NHS Trust. The tests are completely free and sent by post to residents chosen address. Patients will receive a text with a link to https://www.letstalkaboutit.nhs.uk, where they will order via the portal.
The Cambridge Practice is leading the way in an initiative with further phases planned across the whole of Rushmoor as the year progresses.
Lesley Rosling, GP and HIV Champion, Cambridge Practice says: “It is a no brainer to cast our net wide and offer freely available HIV and STI postal testing to all our patients. The figures suggest there will be undiagnosed people in our areas and we have an important role in finding them and getting them on life-changing treatment. Regardless of the results, every test ordered is a body blow to the HIV-related stigma that is all too present. It is always best to know your status, order a test today.”
Richard Angell, Campaigns Director, Terrence Higgins Trust commented, “The text messages to patients at the Cambridge Practice will change who tests for HIV and ensures the small numbers who currently go undiagnosed in Rushmoor have a chance of being found and put on life-changing treatment. We are very proud to support such an important initiative this National HIV Testing Week.
“HIV treatment is now available and life-changing – those on the effective treatment available on the NHS no longer have HIV attacking their immune system and cannot pass on the virus. Everyone needs to know this, order a test today.”
Sarah Malcolm, Operational Director for Vaccinations and Health Inequalities at Solent NHS Trust, said: “We are proud to be supporting the Cambridge Practice in Rushmoor with a proactive public health approach to HIV testing and we know this initiative will change, and potentially save, lives.
“Everyone across Hampshire can order a free HIV and STI sample test at letstalkaboutit.nhs.uk.”
There are less than 4400 people in England with undiagnosed HIV and the virus itself is very different to what so many remember from the 1980s. Once diagnosed, treatment is started quickly; this suppresses the virus meaning it cannot duplicate in the body, cannot attack the immune system and those on treatment cannot pass on the virus to sexual partners.
There has been an increase in people presenting with sexually transmitted infections and this is believed to be, in part, due to the relaxation of COVID restrictions, bringing people out into the community after two years of isolation.
Solent’s Sexual Health services remained open during the COVID pandemic, adapting to support more people online than ever before, guaranteeing anonymity and even arranging discreet delivery of treatments to people’s homes or pick-up points.
Debbie Zimmerman, Head of Service at Solent NHS Trust Sexual Health, said: ‘Solent is serious about tackling sexually transmitted infections, including Chlamydia rates. We are extremely proud of how our service adapted during the pandemic to ensure that some of the most vulnerable people in our community were able to access timely and safe medical assistance.
Portsmouth’s rich and diverse community has seen an increase in STI’s due to risky sexual behaviour after lockdown but we are managing to treat the population and are confident that the safe sex messages will be remembered by residents.
Our recent campaign to get people talking about the benefits of PrEP, a free HIV prevention pill, is just one of the solutions we are proving to people. A new ‘test at home’ Chlamydia kit is also available, free of charge and may be posted anonymously to a client’s address.
Together with our confidential and easy to access online service, and the return to booked face-to-face appointments, our service continues to provide the highest standards.”
More information about how to access Solent’s Sexual Health Service, call 0300 300 2016 or visit letstalkaboutit.nhs.uk