Saturday 16 November marks the start of HIV Testing Week and to show how easy testing is, the Axess sexual health team at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital tested Britain’s Got Talent and BBC Radio 4 star, comedian Daliso Chaponda.
Daliso was keen to demonstrate how simple the HIV testing process can be and support the sexual health team in encouraging people to get tested regularly so they know their HIV status.
The HIV community nurses are hosting a drop in testing session on 22 November from 10am-3pm at the Hartington Road clinic. Additionally, you can also be tested every week, Monday to Friday, at the Royal’s Axess clinic. The test involves taking a small blood sample from a quick finger-prick and the results can be seen within 20 minutes.
Daliso, who has worked with UNAIDS, appeared on Britain’s Got Talent in 2017 and recently had a successful stand-up series on BBC Radio 4. Daliso said: “It’s vital that the stigma that comes with HIV testing is taken away. When I grew up, no one talked about it – but it’s not a scary thing to talk about. The more you learn about it the better. You’d want to find out if you have diabetes, so you should want to find out if you have HIV. Knowledge is power."
I did an internship with UNAIDS, and ever since I have been aware of how important it is to get tested – it makes sense to know your health status.
Shirley Caddick, Axess HIV nurse, said: “It’s great that Daliso has come along to show his support and help people understand how quick it can be to check your HIV status.
"There is still stigma associated with HIV and I think that can put people off getting tested. But our experienced team understand your anxieties and always treat patients with respect and dignity. We want people to know their HIV status by getting tested regularly.”
If you contact the Axess clinic as soon as you think you've been exposed to the virus within 72 hours then you might be able to take anti-HIV (PEP) medication to stop you getting infected.
If your risk was recent, then the HIV team will advise you to take a test immediately followed by a second one a few weeks later. The second test will pick up any infection the first one may have missed because signs of the HIV infection don’t show up in the blood right away.
While new HIV diagnoses have fallen for a third consecutive year, the latest data from Public Health England says 43% of all diagnoses in 2018 were late (living undiagnosed with HIV for around three to five years). People diagnosed late have an increased risk of ill-health, early death and onward transmission of HIV.
Shirley added: "If you do find out you have HIV then we can manage it through effective medication, and if detected at an early stage it will enable most people with the virus to live a long and healthy life. We offer plenty of support and advice and importantly you'll get the treatment you need."
You can visit the Axess Clinic at the Royal Liverpool Hospital Monday to Friday, call 0151 706 2620 or visit www.rlbuht.nhs.uk/axess for information or to contact the HIV community nurses at Hartington Road Clinic call 0151 295 8650 or visit www.rlbuht.nhs.uk/CommunityHIVservices
You can also visit Sahir House website for a full list of HIV testing opportunities during National HIV Testing Week: https://sahir.org.uk/what-we-do/health-promotion-services/national-hiv-testing-week/ or call 0151 237 3989.