During 2018 nearly half (43%) of all adults diagnosed with HIV in Derbyshire were diagnosed at a late stage of infection.
This means they are putting their own health at greater risk and potentially risk spreading the infection to partners through being unaware of their own HIV-status.
Now, during national HIV testing week (16 – 22 November), sexual health experts in Derbyshire and Derby are calling for greater awareness and uptake of regular HIV testing.
Sean McVeigh is the general manager of the CQC outstanding-rated Integrated Sexual Health Services, run by Derbyshire Community Health Services NHS Foundation Trust.
Sean said: “People can live with HIV a long time before they experience any symptoms, so testing is the only way to know your HIV status.
“Raising awareness helps to dispel the stigma that’s been around HIV for a long time. HIV can affect anyone, regardless of gender or sexual preference. You should consider a test especially if you have changed sexual partners who don’t know their HIV status, whatever your age.
“The good news is that with an early diagnosis and effective free treatments available at local HIV services, which are run by University Hospital of Derby & Burton and Chesterfield Royal Hospital NHS Foundation Trusts, most people with HIV won't develop any AIDS-related illnesses and can enjoy a long, healthy life.
“But if you have HIV and it’s not treated, it will eventually damage your immune system and you are likely to develop serious, life-threatening conditions. This could take five to 10 years, although this can happen more quickly in some cases.
“If you have HIV, finding out means you can start treatment, stay healthy and avoid passing the virus onto anyone else.”
The national HIV testing week campaign slogan is “Give HIV the Finger” in acknowledgement of the simple finger-prick test used in HIV testing.
Sean added: “We estimate that more than 20% of people who have HIV don’t know that they have it. But we are determined to help break down the stigma, promote testing and offer reassurance that anyone who receives a positive diagnosis will be able to access excellent care locally.”