Today is World Aids Day, and yesterday on the eve of this yearly event, 19 MPs helped to raise awareness about the importance of HIV testing.
The event also coincided with the end of National HIV Testing Week, and was organised by CNWL and the Bloomsbury Network, in partnership with the All-Party Parliamentary Group on HIV/AIDS.
The team of experts running the event offered on-site HIV testing, information and advice to the MPs. They made use of the latest testing technology to give the eight MPs who were tested almost instantaneous results. The ones not being tested not only attended the event in a show of support, but they also helped raise awareness – which in itself is critical.
As we’ve discussed before, the UK has a pretty worrying problem of late diagnosis of HIV and a large number of people being unaware they even have the virus. 17% of people with HIV in the UK (which is roughly 18,000 people) are unaware of their condition and therefore not getting the treatment they need. A person who has untreated HIV is more likely to spread the virus and also is more likely to become ill.
Mike Freer, MP for Finchley and Golders Green and Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on HIV/AIDS, said: “Today’s testing event in Parliament was all about normalising HIV testing and showing how quick and easy it is. The stigma and fear around HIV needs to be a thing of the past. Eight MPs were tested for HIV this morning, hopefully that will inspire more of the public to do the same.”
Cristian Sandulescu, Patient Representative from the Bloomsbury Network at Mortimer Market Centre, said: “HIV testing is about looking after yourself and being responsible and this event helps show the way. HIV is a long term manageable condition and the earlier the diagnosis, the better it is for the patient, so it’s important to get tested no matter who you are.”
Dr Laura Waters, HIV Lead at CNWL, said: “The fear and stigma surrounding HIV is still a barrier to testing – by showing how quickly a result can be provided in non-traditional settings we hope to show just how simple testing is. Effective HIV treatment normalises life expectancy and almost eliminates the risk of passing the virus on but people with HIV cannot experience these benefits if they are undiagnosed.”
You can book an appointment for HIV testing online by visiting CNWL’s Mortimer Market Centre