This November, HIV and sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust will launch England’s first ever National HIV Testing Week.

The week, which will run from 23rd – 30th November, is being co-ordinated through HIV Prevention England (HPE), a partnership of community organisations funded by the Department of Health to carry out national HIV prevention work in England among communities at an increased risk of infection. It forms the centrepiece of HPE’s autumn campaign Think HIV, which aims to encourage Africans in England to test for the virus.

The initiative follows the release of new guidance from the Department of Health stating that, as of October 2012, anyone with HIV in the UK can access treatment for free on the NHS, regardless of their immigration status.

To take part in the campaign, Africans can visit www.thinkHIV.org.uk (open in new window) and complete a short survey to receive personalised advice about testing for HIV.

Africans are one of the groups most at risk of HIV in England. However, one in four Africans with HIV currently remains undiagnosed. Someone who is diagnosed late, after a point at which they should have already started treatment, is nine times more likely to die within a year of receiving their diagnosis than someone who tests in good time. Yet among Africans diagnosed with HIV in the UK in 2010, 66 per cent of men and 61 per cent of women were diagnosed late, when they should already have started treatment.

Takudzwa Mukiwa, Health Promotion Specialist for African communities at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “National HIV Testing Week is a great chance to remind Africans in England that while HIV is no longer a death sentence, an early diagnosis can dramatically improve someone’s chances. In the past, knowing they would be ineligible for treatment on the NHS may have put some Africans off going for an HIV test, but the release of new guidelines opening up free NHS treatment for everyone living with HIV in England means there really is no better time to test.“

Paul Ward, Deputy Chief Executive at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “We believe it is within our grasp to halt the spread of HIV, and Africans are a key group with the power to help drive that effort. That’s why we need the whole community to get behind this new initiative and turn a spotlight on HIV testing, not just during testing week but all year round.”

Think HIV will be promoted via adverts in African mass and social media, posters in African community venues, and on bus adverts in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Luton. A number of regional organisations across England will also be commissioned through HPE to promote the campaign in their local communities.

National HIV Testing Week will run from Friday 23rd – Friday 30th November 2012. It is planned that the week will be an annual event.

Better2Know is proud to support the Terrence Higgins Trust, and will be donating for every HIV test booked through Better2Know in the fortnight around World AIDS day.

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