December 1st is World AIDS Day (WAD)and every year this is preceded by National HIV Testing Week at the end of November. The week will see national campaigning by organisations such as the Terence Higgins Trust and also local work by staff from the HIV service at Heartlands and volunteers from the charity Saving Lives. They will be out talking to people, answering questions, and educating the public; informing people that those who know they are HIV positive, and are “undetectable” on treatment, are not able to pass on the virus to others.
People often think that getting an HIV test doesn’t apply to them, but this leads to people living with the virus and not knowing about it. When you are unaware you have it, that’s when you can unknowingly pass it on to others, so having a simple test for HIV at the GP, sexual health clinic, or with a postal kit can save your life and that of those you care about. On WAD there will be a vigil held just outside St Philip’s cathedral in Birmingham during the evening where those who have come before us will be remembered and thoughts for the future expressed.
The HIV service at Heartlands has a patient forum made up of passionate individuals who are keen to hear the views of as many others who use the service as possible. They are currently designing a patient satisfaction questionnaire and they are planning on training as peer mentors for those who may be newly diagnosed and who might benefit from some support from people who have been there. If you would like to know more about the forum, have views on the HIV service, or would like to be a part of the forum, please look for their page on the service website and contact through there www.hivbirmingham.nhs.uk or email direct on firstname.lastname@example.org.