Spotlight

National HIV Testing Week launches in Somerset with free postal testing offered to people over 16

People over 16 in Somerset can now access a free HIV test from the comfort of their own home.

National HIV Testing Week runs from Monday 1 February to Sunday 7 February with a focus on HIV testing at home, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Eddystone Trust, county council and NHS are encouraging people to find out their HIV status by ordering a free finger prick test through the post, which is quick and easy to use.

Kat Briggs, an assistant practitioner at the Somerset-wide integrated sexual health service (SWISH), which is run by Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, said:

"There are almost 300 people living with HIV in Somerset, 97 per cent of who take medication to control the virus and prevent them passing it on to anyone else.

“Testing for HIV puts you in control and, thanks to treatment, will stop you from getting seriously ill and enable you to live a normal lifespan.

"Lockdown has meant that most people have had fewer sexual partners, if any at all, and now is the perfect time to be sure you know your HIV status.

“This national testing week encourages people to have a free, quick and confidential HIV test, particularly those in groups most affected by HIV, including men who have sex with men and black African men and women.”

James Mead, Development Lead for HIV Prevention at The Eddystone Trust, said:

“This National HIV Testing Week, we’re encouraging our supporters to get tested for HIV from the comfort of their own homes.

“Testing from home is the safest option for us all. You can order a free HIV self-test kit straight to your door, equipped with detailed instructions on how to do your test. Getting tested regularly should be something we’re all doing in order to protect ourselves.

“If you test positive, effective treatment means you can live as long as anyone else, and when the amount of the virus in your blood is reduced to undetectable levels, this means you cannot pass on HIV. Testing puts you in control and isn’t something to be afraid of.”

Self-test kits can be ordered here: https://www.freetest.me/landing/swish/swishservice

Editor’s notes:

For more information about Somerset’s sexual health services, including SWISH and The Eddystone Trust visit:

SWISH Services | Somerset Wide Integrated Sexual Health

The Eddystone Trust | HIV & Sexual Health Services

For more information on the national campaign, go to: https://www.startswithme.org.uk