The announcement coincides with ‘Do it London’ awareness raising campaign, which aims to encourage regular testing for HIV and promote safe sex. The kits are for at high risk groups, which include gay men, bisexual and heterosexual men and women from Black African origins to help identify the condition early.
The kits can be ordered online from the Terrance Higgins Trust website and will arrive in a few days to a chosen address in the borough. All that is required is a small sample of blood, from a finger prick. The kit is then sent off in on a pre-paid envelope for testing.
Cary James, Head of Health Improvement Programmes at Terrence Higgins Trust said,
“Postal HIV tests are a great way to make it even easier to test for HIV. “National HIV Testing Week’ (starts November 21) is mere weeks away so it is great to see Harrow taking leadership in providing such an innovative service to support the sexual health of its residents.”
Councillor for public health, Varsha Parmar, said:
“In Harrow we only have a small number of people who are diagnosed with HIV, but it is still important for risk groups to be checked regularly. I am delighted that Harrow is the first Council in England to provide these kits. The tests are a discreet way for people who are sexually active to find out if they are HIV positive and prevent transmitting the infection further.
“Thankfully HIV treatments have advanced dramatically in recent years and if diagnosed early there is a range of treatments available. However, if undiagnosed there can be life changing consequences.”
If left untreated, HIV can be fatal. It damages the immune system, preventing our bodies from fighting off infections that we could normally handle. More than 500 people died from HIV-related illness in the UK in 2013. That’s why testing for HIV is crucial, and why advances such as these testing kits, and campaigns such as National HIV Testing Week are so important.
Residents who are outside of the at risk groups can still take advantage of free testing in the borough. Information on what services are available and where, can be found on the Harrow Council website.
As a Harrow resident you can get information about Sexual Health and a free HIV test from:
Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) – that offer a free self-sampling postal HIV kit available to residents in London Borough of Barnet.
Ask your GP for an HIV test – nowadays there is no need for a lengthy discussion about the test, it just involves having a blood test taken.
Request a test from your local Genito-Urinary Medicine (GUM) clinic (London North West Healthcare NHS Trust- Sexual Health) or local Contraceptive and Sexual Health Clinic – CaSH (London North West Healthcare NHS Trust – Contraception and Sexual Health#Harrow).
Offer of HIV test is private and confidential. You are never alone if your test result is positive, there is support available.
In 2013, 383 Harrow residents (218 males and 165 females) received HIV-related care. Of these, 174 were black African, 85 were white and 47 Indian/ Pakistan/ Bangladesh, 24 Black Caribbean and 53 were from other/ undisclosed ethnic groups. The main route of infection in Harrow is sex between men and women (269) with a further (82) attributed to men who have sex with men (MSM).