Today we took an HIV test, here’s why you should too

Councillor Ellie King, seen on the left and Mayor Marvin Rees, seen on the right are either side of Unity Sexual Health employees in Bristol City Council's chamber hall. They are holding leaflets advising people to test for HIV.
Today’s blog is from myself and Councillor Ellie King, Cabinet Member for Public Health and Communities

Today we both took an HIV test. That shouldn’t be a remarkable statement, but we know that for some people, it is.

We’re proud to be kicking off a week of activities for National HIV Testing Week across Bristol. Terrence Higgins Trust (THT), the UK’s leading HIV and sexual health charity, and part of our Unity Sexual Health Service in Bristol, have set up several walk-in testing clinics across our city, taking place on:

  • Tuesday 7 February from 12pm to 4pm at UWE Bower Ashton Campus, Bristol, BS3 2JT;
  • Thursday 9 February from 9:30am to 3pm at East Trees Health Centre, 100a Fishponds Road, BS5 6SA;
  • Tuesday 14 February from 11am to 3pm at UWE Frenchay Campus, Coldharbour lane, BS16 1QY.

Free tests can also be ordered online and delivered to your home or picked up from the HIV vending machines at Watershed and Hamilton House.

Mayor Marvin Rees, getting tested for HIV, with an employee from Terrence Higgns Trust and Unity Health.

Knowing your HIV status isn’t something to be ashamed of or worried about. What is worrying is that nearly 60 per cent of people living with HIV in our city are still diagnosed late, which is a lot higher than the national average. When someone is diagnosed late, it means that the virus has already started to attack their immune system. This is entirely preventable, as once a person is on effective treatment they can live a long, healthy life and can’t pass on the virus to others.

To make a real difference, we have to make HIV testing routine practice both in our health service and our communities.

We’ve been calling for funds for ‘opt-out’ HIV testing for our hospitals in Bristol, so that everyone who has blood taken in our emergency departments is tested. We’re ready and waiting for the funding to get this started and, while the Health Secretary drags his heels, the case for it is only growing. Now 1,500 people have been diagnosed with HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C through the programme in London, Manchester, Brighton and Blackpool. That’s why leading charities in the fight against HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C have joined together this month to call for blood-borne virus testing in all emergency departments in areas with a high prevalence of HIV, which includes Bristol. So we need our residents to make their voice heard on routine HIV testing, and you can join the call by signing the open letter here.

Councillor Ellie King, getting tested for HIV, with an employee from Unity Health.

Testing for HIV lets you take control of your health. We could be part of the generation that ends new HIV transmissions in this country. That’s why we’ve both tested today and why we’ll keep putting pressure on the government to make testing routine in our health service.  

For more information about sexual health services and HIV testing and treatment in Bristol, please go to the Unity Sexual Health website.