Leader says 'It Starts With Me'Published Thursday, 17th November 2016
Rotherham Council's Leader has been tested for HIV in an effort to raise awareness about the condition and encourage others to get checked out.
The Leader took the test in his office at Riverside House, a finger-prick test to raise awareness that the test is for everybody as part of the 'It Starts With Me' campaign, that stresses the role of individual responsibility in stopping the spread of HIV.
The test taken in the lead up to European HIV-Hepatitis Testing Week, taking place from 18-25 November 2016, is now in its fourth year and the second time hepatitis testing has been included.
Testing week is an initiative that was launched by HIV in Europe in 2013 to help more people to become aware of their HIV status.
The test only took a few moments, and then just a few further minutes elapsed before the Leader could get his results, while his blood sample was mixed with chemicals and poured into a test tray.
Rotherham's Council Leader, Cllr Chris Read said: "I am proud to play my part in stopping the stigma around HIV by openly talking about it and having this test. People shouldn't be scared to get tested. Anyone can contract HIV, so you're better off knowing and getting support and treatment if you need it – and the test didn't hurt at all."
The procedure was carried out by Karl Cooper, Project Manager for PlusMe, a Rotherham based organisation that provides a wide range of support services, activities and training for organisations and people living with or affected by HIV in Rotherham, Barnsley and Sheffield.
Karl Cooper said: "The Council Leader was very calm about the test, and it's significant that the Leader of the Council was getting tested as it means that this is a test for everybody - it doesn't matter who you are, it's a good idea to have an HIV test."
Cabinet Member for Public Health, Councillor David Roche, said: "The 'It Starts With Me' campaign stresses that everyone has individual responsibility and we can all stop the spread of HIV. Whether someone is HIV positive, negative or making the decision to test for the first time. They are doing something and have embraced the 'It Starts With Me' spirit."
Karl Cooper added: "Having a test once a year is a good way to end the doubt and the worry. The sooner someone with HIV starts treatment, the better it is for their health. Treatment can also reduce the amount of HIV in the body to levels at which HIV cannot be passed on."
Today, at least one in three of the 2.5 million people living with HIV in Europe are unaware that they are HIV positive. Half of those living with HIV are diagnosed late – which delays access to treatment.
Hepatitis B and C are common among people at risk of and living with HIV. Around 13.3 million people and 15 million people are living with hepatitis B and C in the World Health Organisation European Region, respectively. As the disease is often asymptomatic and left untreated, chronic hepatitis is a major cause of liver cirrhosis and liver cancer.
The majority of people with hepatitis C remain undiagnosed and only a small minority in Europe (3.5 percent) receive treatment.
These statistics suggest that we need to be doing more to encourage individuals who are unknowingly living with HIV and/or hepatitis to take a test.
It's better for people at risk of HIV and/or hepatitis to know their status as soon as possible.
There are considerable health benefits by accessing early diagnosis as it allows access to treatment and care and people living with the infection can expect to live near-normal life expectancy if they are diagnosed promptly.
In the UK late diagnosis of HIV is the most likely cause of death from the disease.
The key advice is to practice safe sex, always use a condom correctly and consistently until new partners have had a sexual health screen.
If anyone thinks that they may be at risk they are advised to speak to their GP.
HIV testing is also available from PlusMe services at All Saints' Churchyard, Rotherham town centre.