NHS Cornwall and Isles of Scilly is supporting this year’s ‘Cornwall Pride’ event to help raise awareness of HIV and encourage more people to get tested routinely.
If left untreated, the sexually transmitted virus leads to AIDS. HIV is one of the fastest growing serious health conditions in the UK. Nationally, around 86,500 people are living with HIV and official figures suggest that over a quarter of those are unaware they have it.
In 2009, there were 2,804 people living in the South West with the disease and accessing NHS care, according to the Health Protection Agency. That year, there were 315 people newly diagnosed with HIV – 53 per cent of whom were diagnosed late, after the stage at which treatment should have started. This means there is a greater risk of spreading the infection and the illness is harder to manage.
NHS Cornwall and Isles of Scilly's Healthy Gay Cornwall team are working in partnership with Royal Cornwall Hospital's Sexual Health team and other agencies to offer free and confidential sexual health screening and Hepatitis B vaccination for anyone attending the Cornwall Pride event. A mobile unit will provide a quiet area for people to speak in private to an advisor.
Cornwall Pride will take place on Saturday 27 August at Victoria Gardens, Truro from 12pm – 4pm.
The Sexual Health team and the Chlamydia Screening team from Royal Cornwall Hospital will be able to provide screening for HIV, Hepatitis B, Syphilis and Chlamydia.
Kernow Positive Support, a charity which supports people living with HIV will be on hand to provide advice on the day. Brook, a charity which provides a sexual health service for young people will also be available on the day to talk to anyone with any concerns.
Al Green, project lead for Healthy Gay Cornwall from the Primary Care Trust said: "The aim of the day is to provide a screening service from a mobile unit in a private environment; reducing people's fear of accessing sexual health services. Late detection, as we are seeing, means not only that other people are at risk of contracting the infection, it also means that when people are diagnosed they are incredibly ill."
He added, "HIV can affect any one regardless of race, gender and sexual orientation; using condoms is still the safest way to ensure you do not catch HIV. Early detection is crucial to stop the spread of HIV to other people. It also improves the prognosis for people who are infected because early treatment will help to prevent HIV progressing to AIDS. Sexual health check ups should be as routine as getting an eye test or a dental check up."
For advice, clinic information and appointments, call the Cornwall Sexual Health Centre on 01872 358750.