Rapid HIV testing in Redbridge unveiled

The scheme is designed to make HIV testing more mainstream

The scheme is designed to make HIV testing more mainstream - Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images

A new programme of rapid testing in the community is being rolled out across Redbridge in the fight against HIV.

Director of public health in Redbridge Vicky Hobart is urging people to take advantage of the service, which starts next month.

She said the scheme aimed to make HIV testing more “mainstream” and reduce the stigma around it.

“It’s becoming much more of a long-term condition – life expectancy is very, very good,” she said.

“When I was 20 it was doom and gloom. Now we have a growing cohort of people with HIV who are living long, long lives.

“We’ve found a way to manage the virus in a similar way to something like diabetes.

“There’s a really important message over just how effective the treatment is.”

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But while the condition is much more manageable than it was 20 years ago, Ms Hobart said early diagnosis and treatment was absolutely key.

“We can have the medical interventions, but if you don’t catch people early enough it will take its toll,” she said.

“If someone is late in their diagnosis, their chance of dying within the first year is about 10-fold.”

The new testing will be focused on wards including Loxford, Roding, Hainault and Goodmayes.

“It’s relatively small number of people in Redbridge, but we are high prevalance. London as a whole is a high-prevalence area,” said Ms Hobart.

“We still have to reach those people affected.

“You can go to a sexual health clinic and have an HIV test. We want to make that more regular, a sense of being more mainstrea. The first step is community testing.”

She said in the future, public health wanted to see HIV testing introduced as part of registering with a GP.

“We’ve got to overcome that stigma,” she added.

The new community rapid testing services will be run by the Terrence Higgins Trust. Go to tht.org.uk to find out more.