HIV nurses hope instant test will help raise awareness in Redbridge

Health professionals are hoping a pioneering new test for HIV will help them diagnose and care for the growing number of people who are contracting the virus.

The introduction of the painless blood test, which provides an instant result, comes as figures show an alarming rise in the prevalence of the illness.

It is also the first time Redbridge residents can get themselves tested for the infection outside of a sexual health clinic and HIV community matron Rebecca Wilkins hopes the service will reduce the stigma around testing for the condition.

She said: “Our real issue is trying to diagnose people prior to them getting really sick - and the thing about this clinic is that it is walk-in and completely free for Redbridge residents.”

Nearly 6,000 people in north east London were treated for the HIV infection in 2009, 31 per cent more than in 2004. But Rebecca Wilkins, who has been working with HIV patients for some 15 years, says that a quarter of people who are HIV positive have not been diagnosed, so it is vital that more people undergo the simple test.

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If somebody does test positive for the virus, they are offered a doctor’s appointment within two working days and can benefit from the wealth of support offered by medical staff and other organisations, like the charity Positive East.

Two dedicated nurses work within the borough to support people with the virus through all aspects of their life.

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Community nurse specialist, Dawn Edwards, works alongside Rebecca Wilkins. She said: “We see people at lots of different stages. Some have just been diagnosed; they may have been really unwell and they are just coming to terms with their diagnosis and learning how to live with HIV.

“We also see people who have been diagnosed for some time, who may have other health issues or who could be struggling with their medication. With HIV the medication is absolutely fundamental.”

The testing clinic, called Better 2 Know, or B2K, is a free service every Wednesday from 4pm to 7pm at Loxford Polyclinic, Ilford Lane, Ilford. All Redbridge residents can walk in and the service is completely confidential.

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