Mike Gapes MP joined Local supporters from the charity Positive East at Ilford's Exchange shopping centre on Saturday morning 30 November 2013 to highlight the need for people to get an HIV test.
With latest reports highlighting Redbridge has double the national rates for HIV prevalence in the UK, Mike Gapes, joined forces with local HIV charity Positive East and partners Out Patients East, RAMFEL & Redbridge Rainbow to appeal to local residents to have a test to check their status.
‘I am delighted to be helping Positive East and their partners Outpatient’s East (our local Sexual Health Service), RAMFEL, and Redbridge Rainbow as they encourage people to take an HIV test’ said Mike Gapes MP
With a quarter of the estimated 98,000 people living with HIV in the UK being unaware of their status, and Africans and Gay Men continuing to be the groups most at risk from the virus.
Mark Santos, Director of Positive East, urged people to come and have a test:
“Redbridge has some of the highest rates of late diagnosis of HIV in London. Knowing your HIV status can save your life and protect your partner’s. Treatments available are free and most effective before the Virus has weakened your immune system. And Getting an HIV test couldn’t be easier’
Earlier in the week on Wednesday Mike had taken his own HIV test in Westminster in support of the Halve It campaign on early HIV testing
The Halve It campaign, aims to halve late diagnosis and undiagnosed HIV in the UK by 2015. ‘HIV transmission is on the increase in the UK, which many people are unaware of’, said Mike. ‘Early testing and diagnosis are key to combatting this epidemic, which is why I chose to be tested, to help remove the stigma around HIV testing, and to galvanise local expansion of HIV testing services.’
HIV testing formed part of the Halve It World AIDS Day parliamentary drop-in session, where Mike met with key members of the campaign’s steering group, including leading HIV clinicians, and CEOs of patient and policy organisations. He discussed with them Halve It’s aims and achievements to date, and the campaign’s compelling case for HIV to remain a public health priority in the UK. The event, which marked the 25th World AIDS Day, was attended by key parliamentarians from all parties.
Halve It is a coalition of advocates and experts that works with all levels of government and the NHS to reduce the proportion of people undiagnosed and diagnosed late with HIV, through public policy reform and implementation of good practice. The Halve It campaign focuses on the expansion of HIV testing services, on the basis that early testing of HIV saves lives and also results in substantial savings to the public health budget.
According to Public Health England data released last week, an estimated 98,400 people were living with HIV in the UK in 2012. The overall prevalence was 1.5 per 1,000 population, and an estimated 21,900 people living with HIV in 2012 were unaware of their infection.
In light of these figures, Mike believes that HIV should remain a public health priority in the UK, and as a Halve It supporter will advocate for the campaign’s continued work on improving HIV testing and diagnosis.