GPs in Redbridge highlight benefits of free testing for HIV

16 November 2018

GPs in Redbridge are encouraging people, particularly those who think they might be at risk, to have a free HIV test.  

Ahead of National HIV Testing Week, which starts on Saturday 17 November, Redbridge Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is emphasising that early diagnosis is vital in helping people effectively manage the condition. 

Most people with the HIV virus live a long and healthy life, particularly if they are diagnosed early, as there are now very effective treatments available. 

However, people with advanced HIV are more likely to have a severely damaged immune system and those diagnosed late are 10 times more likely to die within a year of diagnosis. 

Last year, 43 per cent of people found to have HIV in the UK were diagnosed late which means more need to come for routine HIV testing. 

Many of those diagnosed late will have seen their GP in the three years leading up to diagnosis – often with signs and symptoms related to HIV infection – so voluntary testing is hugely important. 

Testing is free and easy in Redbridge and information on where you can find your local testing centre can be found here: https://alleast.nhs.uk/find-a-clinic. People can rest assured that, if diagnosed with HIV, they can access free treatment and support. 

It is also important at this time of year for people with weakened immune systems from HIV and other long term conditions to get their free flu vaccine from their GP or local pharmacy. 

In the UK, people are testing more, staying protected by using condoms and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), getting diagnosed and starting HIV treatment earlier. Thanks to this combination approach, the UK is witnessing a substantial decline in HIV diagnoses.

However, too many people are still being diagnosed late, especially among heterosexual men and women.

Dr Anil Mehta, GP and Chair of Redbridge CCG, said: “Early diagnosis is key to supporting patients to manage HIV as a long-term condition.

“We want to make testing as easy an experience as possible and we would encourage anyone with any concerns to come and get tested.

“We also want to ensure we don’t miss opportunities to test for HIV when patients arrive at the surgery with tell-tale signs. 

“We will continue our year round work to help tackle the stigma of HIV and reach people early enough to support them to live long and fulfilling lives.”