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Know your HIV status: First ever National HIV Testing Week

This month sees the launch of England's first ever National HIV Testing Week.

The week, which will run from 23 - 30 November, is being co-ordinated through HIV Prevention England (HPE) a partnership of community organisations funded by the Department of Health to carry out national HIV prevention work in England among communities at an increased risk of infection.

Many extra opportunities to test for HIV are being made available up and down the country including in York and North Yorkshire.

Around 25% of people with HIV are unaware of their status. It is important that people know their HIV status as a late HIV diagnosis can kill.

There are increased health benefits from knowing your HIV status. Highly effective treatment is available to people who are HIV positive and treatment of HIV reduces transmission and improves quality and length of life.

York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and other partner organisations, including the Cambridge Centre, Yorkshire MESMAC and North Yorkshire Aids Action, have arranged a number of rapid HIV testing sessions during National HIV Testing Week including two community-based sessions being put on by Yorkshire MESMAC to take HIV testing into the far corners of North Yorkshire (see table below).

At these clinics the test is done and the results made available within one hour.

Tom Doyle, Chief Executive of Yorkshire MESMAC and Northern and central England partner of HPE, said: "The sooner you know your HIV status the better it is for your health. If you don't have HIV, you can stop worrying and we can help you develop strategies for the future to help you manage your risks. If you have HIV, treatment's never been so effective and the sooner you know, the more choices you have."

"We are in the privileged position in England that HIV treatments are free for everyone regardless of immigration status. What we haven't been so great about is getting people to test in the first place. Testing for HIV is something you can consider part of a normal Heath MOT, something you check up each year or when you change partners.

"During National HIV Testing Week we are working with partner agencies across North Yorkshire to increase the places and times you can get an HIV test."

Dr Ian Fairley, Consultant and Lead Clinician Sexual Health Services at York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, explained: "HIV is progressive and without treatment it can kill. However, with treatment it will allow you to live an essentially normal life. We want to make sure that people don't die of ignorance."

People at risk of HIV now and in the future can attend any sexual health service for a HIV test. It is routinely offered to patients attending all sexual health services.

To find out about where to get tested locally visit www.yorsexualhealth.org.uk or via the national clinic finder on www.thinkHIV.org.uk. You can also call the central booking line on 01904 721111 (between 8.30am and 6.30pm).

The awareness week will culminate in World Aids Day which takes place on December 1.

In York, the Red Ribbon flag will once again be flown from the Minster, and the North Yorkshire AIDS Memorial Quilt will also be on display. During the day, Red ribbons and free condoms will also be distributed in York City Centre as well as events in both of York's universities Including testing, awareness raising, red ribbons and free condoms.

Alongside these rapid testing clinics two further HIV testing clinics have been set up in Scarborough during the week.

Click here for details and dates of sessions.

Press Opportunity Scarborough: You are invited to send a photographer/ reporter to Northway Clinic, Scarborough between 10 and 11am on Monday 19 November when Lincoln Sargeant, Director of Public Health for North Yorkshire and Karen Chapman, Community Development Worker from MESMAC, will be available for photos/ interviews.

Press Opportunity York: You are invited to send a photographer/ reporter to Monkgate Health Centre, York at 8.45am on Tuesday 20 November when Paul Edmondson-Jones, Director of Public Health for York, and Tom Doyle, CEO of MESMAC, will be available for photos/ interviews until 9.30am.

For further information about National HIV Testing Week or to arrange an interview please contact:

Tom Doyle, CEO of MESMAC, on 0113 2444209 / 07771931421 or email t.doyle@mesmac.co.uk

Or Rebecca Aspin, Media and Communications Officer at York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, 01904 721855 or email Rebecca.aspin@york.nhs.uk

23 November 2012

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