|Testing week is now in its fourth year and the theme for testing week 2016 is Test. Treat. Prevent. The aim being to increase positive dialogue about the benefits of testing for HIV and Hepatitis. It’s important that people at risk of HIV and/or Hepatitis know their status as soon as possible. Today, treatment advances mean that people living with HIV can live healthily for a long time if they are diagnosed early, and people living with Hepatitis C can be completely cured. European HIV & Hepatitis Testing Week 2016.
It is estimated that approximately 30% of the 8,000 people living with HIV in Ireland are unaware that they are HIV positive, and approximately 40% of the 20–30,000 people estimated to be living with Hepatitis C are unaware of their status.
European HIV-Hepatitis Testing Week is coordinated by HIV in Europe, but relies on participating organizations across Europe, including GOSHH, to organize local activities ensuring they are targeted at those who are at a higher risk of HIV and Hepatitis.
In Limerick last year, 7 agencies participated in testing week, which meant we were able to provide educational workshops in targeted agencies and community based Rapid HIV testing throughout the week, and as a result, 103 people were tested for HIV, from which all HIV reactive cases that were identified, were linked to appropriate care.
Ann Mason, Manager of GOSHH explained how important it is for people to know their HIV status: “These days HIV is a treatable infection and the sooner someone living with HIV accesses treatment, the sooner the medication will reduce their viral load to undetectable. It is also important to encourage people to openly discuss their HIV status with their sexual partner(s).”
“A key focus for European HIV and Hepatitis Testing Week is to encourage more healthcare professionals, outside a sexual health setting, to offer tests. Research has shown that 95% of people will accept a test when offered one. One of our goals is will be that everybody living in the Mid-West will get to know their HIV status and be aware of sexual health services within their locality.”
Susan, who has received the new treatment for Hep C and is now cured, says “In 2012 I was hospitalized with bleeding oesophageal varices & liver cirrhosis. After a few months I was doing better but was then diagnosed with Hep C. I knew nothing about Hepatitis so I thought this was a death sentence; four years later and I’m still here. In March 2015 I finished a three month course of the new Hepatitis C treatment (Sovaldi) and I have been clear of the virus ever since. Hopefully everyone living with Hepatitis will also get this cure”.
Ann Mason added: “We would encourage as many people as possible to come along to one of the various locations and give just 1 minute to update their HIV status or learn about HIV and Hepatitis C testing.” European HIV & Hepatitis Testing Week 2016.
To find out more about the European HIV-Hepatitis testing week click here.
Visit the official GOSHH website by clicking here.