As part of November’s European HIV-Hepatitis Testing Week 2016, GOSHH will be offering free testing in Limerick City
Between 18 and 25 November, Gender, Orientation, Sexual Health and HIV (GOSHH) will be coordinating with organisations in Limerick to encourage people to know their status and get tested for HIV and Hepatitis C.
The theme for the fourth year of testing week is ‘Test. Treat. Prevent.’ which aims to make people aware of the benefits of knowing your HIV and Hepatitis C status as soon as possible.
If diagnosed early and treated accordingly, people living with HIV can live healthily for a long time.
An estimated 30% of HIV-positive people in Ireland are unaware of their status, while an estimated 40% of the 20,000 – 30,000 people living with Hepatitis C unaware of their status.
European HIV-Hepatitis Testing Week is coordinated by HIV in Europe but relies on the participation of organisations across Europe, including GOSHH, to ensure that local activities are targeted at those who are at higher risk of contracting HIV and Hepatitis, such as men who have sex with men, sex workers, intravenous drug users, prisoners and migrants.
Last year, seven agencies participated in testing week in Limerick, with 103 people testing for HIV and those who tested positive were identified and linked to appropriate care.
Ann Mason, the Manager of GOSHH, explained how important knowing your HIV status is: “These days HIV is a treatable infection and the sooner someone living with HIV accesses treatment, the sooner the medication will reduce their viral load to undetectable.
“Is is also important to encourage people to openly discuss their HIV status with their sexual partner(s).”
Not Just GUM Clinics
Mason highlighted that another focus of the European HIV and Hepatitis Testing Week is to promote medical practitioners outside of sexual health settings in offering these tests.
“A key focus of European HIV and Hepatitis Testing Week is to encourage more health care professionals, outside a sexual health setting, to offer tests.
Research has shown that 95% of people will accept a test when offered one.
One of our goals will be that everybody living in the Mid-West will get to know their HIV status and be aware of sexual health services within their locality.”
While previous medicines used to combat Hepatitis C were moderately successful in removing the virus from the body with success rates of about 50%, a new drug called Sovaldi offers a very high cure rate.
Sovaldi (which was approved for use in Europe in 2014) can be used to treat those with Hepatitis C and offers a cure rate of 91%.
Susan, who received this new treatment for Hepatitis C and is now cured spoke about how she became infected with Hepatitis C.
“In 2012 I was hospitalised with bleeding oesophageal varices & liver cirrhosis,” Susan said.
Not A Death Sentence
“After a few months I was doing better but was then diagnosed with Hep C. I knew nothing about Hepatitis so I thought this was a death sentence; four years later and I’m still here.
“In March 2015 I finished a three-month course of the new Hepatitis C treatment (Sovaldi) and I have been clear of the virus ever since,” she said.
“Hopefully everyone living with Hepatitis will also get this cure.”
Mason is hoping that turnout for testing will be high, encouraging people to avail of the free services this week.
“We would encourage as many people as possible to come along to one of the various locations and give just 1 minute to update their HIV status or learn about HIV and Hepatitis C testing,” the GOSHH Manager said.
To find out more about the European HIV-Hepatitis testing week visit www.testingweek.eu or to find out more information about tests being provided by GOSHH follow them on Facebook & Twitter, call 061 314354, email [email protected] or visit www.goshh.ie/test
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