Bath & North East Somerset Council has signed up to a national campaign encouraging people to get HIV tests, and to highlight their importance.
In a bid to raise awareness of the importance of getting tested, and to mark World AIDS Day, 1st December, two Councillors agreed to attend the RUH’s Sexual Health Centre for HIV tests: Cllr Simon Allen, the Cabinet Member for Wellbeing and Cllr Vic Pritchard, chairman of the Council’s Wellbeing Policy Development and Scrutiny Panel.
In signing up to the national Halve It campaign, the Council has agreed to help reduce by half the number of people with HIV as yet undiagnosed, and to help reduce by half the number of people diagnosed late.
Councillor Allen said: “Although the number of people in Bath and North East Somerset infected with HIV is low, it would be wrong to think that the virus has gone away.
“Half of those people with HIV in this area are diagnosed late, meaning that their health could already be compromised. So it’s important that we continue to urge people to come forward for testing and for treatment.”
Cllr Pritchard added: “The Council is one of the first in the country to sign up to the Halve It campaign, and I’m delighted to be able to get involved and help raise awareness of HIV tests.”
World AIDS Day – held on December 1 each year – is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with the virus, and commemorate people who have died.
World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day and the first one was held in 1988.
Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Director of Public Health, Dr Bruce Laurence, said: “Human Immunodeficiency Virus – commonly known as HIV – attacks the body’s immune system, the body’s natural defence against diseases.
“In the UK alone, more than 100,000 people have HIV – with up to 25% of them being unaware that they have the virus.
“The HIV virus can be passed on through infected bodily fluids – most commonly via unprotected sex or by sharing infected needles, syringes or other injecting drug equipment.”
Dr Arnold Fernandes, Consultant in Sexual Health at the Royal United Hospital, Bath said: “Although there is currently no cure for HIV, there are very effective treatments available to treat the condition, especially when HIV is diagnosed early.
“These treatments ensure that individuals diagnosed with HIV remain healthy and are able to enjoy a good quality of life, hence the benefit of getting tested for HIV.”
HIV testing is free and confidential – and both testing and a comprehensive sexual health check are offered at the Department of Sexual Health at the Royal United Hospital in Bath. Telephone 01225 824558 for confidential advice or 01225 824617 to book an appointment.
Some GP surgeries also offer HIV testing, so people are encouraged to make contact with the service they feel most comfortable approaching.