Tag Archives: Health

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.

Director of Public Health’s report for 2023

Councillor Ellie King, smiling, on the ramp in front of Bristol City Hall.
Today’s guest blog is from Councillor
Ellie King, Cabinet Member for
Public Health and Communities

The New Year often goes hand in hand with new beginnings, new goals, and new resolutions. For many people, being more physically active comes top of their New Year’s Resolution list. Although most resolutions fall by the wayside by February, being more physically active doesn’t have to be about hitting the gym every week. Simply put, being more active is about getting your body moving more. Taking the stairs instead of the lift, or walking or cycling short trips rather than taking the car, contributes to a more active lifestyle.

This year’s Director of Public Health report focuses on physical activity and how leading a more active lifestyle not only benefits our physical and mental health, but also helps with disease prevention and recovery. As Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer for England said, ‘If physical activity were a drug, we’d talk about it as a miracle cure’.

It is estimated that the current UK population is 20 per cent less active than in the 1960s. There are many reasons why this is the case. Technology has changed the way we work and the way we spend our leisure time. Fewer of us have manual jobs than in the past whilst many more of us now rely on cars as our means of transport.

Games being played at an accessible Multi Sports Festival.

The 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games, aimed to inspire a generation to take up sport and regular physical activity. The UK government’s pledge to encourage more people to take up physical activity off the back of the Games was a means to forge a healthier and more active future. Ten years on and after a global pandemic, the number of people in Bristol who do the recommended amount of regular exercise each week dropped from 73 per cent between 2015 and 2019 to 67.1 per cent in 2021 according to the Quality of Life survey.

Needless to say, the pandemic years were challenging for many people, but they also taught us about the importance of physical activity. Going out for that daily walk or doing home workouts became highly valued during a time when our movement was restricted.

The report showcases ten inspiring real-life stories where people in Bristol have managed to build physical activity into their daily lives. In some cases, physical activity has helped people overcome the physical and emotional effects of COVID-19. It has also helped to tackle lifestyle-related illnesses such as type 2 diabetes as well as facilitated stronger community ties through inclusive activities and programmes.

Maroua Nouri, smiling, on the top of some stairs with her children.

Swimming pools and leisure centres provide opportunities and environments where people can be physically active. The council’s commitment to invest £8 million across its leisure facilities will ensure these sites continue to cater to a wide range of physical activities, interests, and abilities, whilst providing people the opportunity to find activities that they enjoy.

Please join the movement to be more active in 2023 by taking your own small steps. Programmes such as Bristol Girls Can, FIT Robins and accessible multi-sport events can help you get started. Whatever you’re doing, you will be making a difference. #ActiveBristol