Finger-prick test sessions in Stevenage could spotlight people who don’t know they have HIV, say experts - Credit: Archant

Sexual health charity Herts Aid is urging people to take the test during National HIV Testing Week, which begins on Saturday

Free ‘finger prick’ testing will be available in GP surgeries, pharmacies including Boots in Stevenage, community venues and clinics.

The charity says thousands of people in the UK have HIV but don’t know it and most new infections are caused by these people passing the virus on.

At the moment, more than half of those newly diagnosed with HIV in Hertfordshire are diagnosed late, when the virus is already affecting their immune system. But people who are diagnosed with HIV promptly can now expect a near normal life span due to advances in treatments for the condition.

Herts Aid director Suzanne Bannister said: “Many people have HIV but don’t know it. Perhaps they don’t think they could have HIV, assume they are HIV negative or have never got round to testing.

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“We’re urging people to consider taking a test so they know their status for sure. HIV screening takes just a few minutes, but the positive effects of early diagnosis can last a lifetime.”

The groups most affected by HIV in the UK are gay men (47 per 1000) and the African community (38 per 1000) but anyone who is unsure of their HIV status, or who feels they may have been at risk is welcome to come forward.

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Herts Aid works to challenge the stigma surrounding HIV and making testing more easily accessible and visible in the community helps. It should be seen as a health check like any other.

The finger prick test can give an initial result in around five minutes. If HIV antibodies are detected, Herts Aid will arrange a follow up test with a local sexual health clinic to confirm the result.

The individual will also be given information on HIV and support to adjust to their diagnosis. The tests will take place in a private room at all the venues. Offering testing in community settings may encourage people to test who wouldn’t normally consider it or who find a sexual health clinic environment off putting.

Sessions in Stevenage include: North Herts College (skills centre), Unit 1A, Astonbury Business Park, Stevenage, Hertfordshire SG2 7EG, awareness raising and testing event, Tuesday, November 25, 11am to 2pm. For college students only; Boots, Roaring Meg retail park, Tuesday to Thursday, 9am to 11am; Boots, Queensway, Tuesday to Thursday, 1.30pm to 4.30pm; Oak Cross Pharmacy, Friday, November 28. 10am to 1pm; St. Nicholas Pharmacy, Canterbury Way, Friday, November 28. 10am to 1pm; Medix Pharmacy, High Street, Friday, November 28, 2pm to 5pm; Lloyds Pharmacy, Magpie Crescent, Tuesday, 10am to 1pm.

Herts Aid has offices in Ware and Watford that are open to the public during normal office hours and some evenings. If you’d like to speak to anyone about HIV or sexual health, or you’d like to take an HIV test please call 01920 484784 or email to arrange an appointment.

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