LANDMARKS across Sunderland are being lit up this weekend to raise awareness of HIV Testing Week, which takes place 7 – 13 February.
Northern Spire bridge, Keel Square, Fulwell Mill, Seaburn Lighthouse, Hylton Castle and the Beacon of Light are among the landmarks and lighting features being lit up in red on Saturday and Sunday for HIV Testing Week. HIV Testing Week takes place every year and aims to reduce the numbers of undiagnosed people and those diagnosed late, as well as raise awareness and increase knowledge of HIV testing in the communities most affected by HIV and the general population.
This year, the theme is ‘Give HIV the finger’ – highlighting that a quick and easy finger-prick is all it takes to get tested. Gerry Taylor, Sunderland’s Director of Public Health, said: “We are pleased to be supporting HIV Testing Week and lighting landmarks to help raise awareness. The number of people getting tested fell by a third in 2020, and with 1 in 20 people with HIV being unaware they have it, regular testing is important to help reduce the number of people living with undiagnosed HIV and those diagnosed late.
“Testing for HIV is quick and easy, and finding out if you have HIV means you can start treatment, stay healthy and avoid passing the virus on to anyone else.”
Dr Jane Hussey, Consultant in Genitourinary Medicine with South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, said: “It’s really important that we normalise conversations about HIV and testing. Many people live with HIV for a long time with no symptoms so the only way to know your status is by getting tested.
“The key thing to remember is that HIV is completely treatable. We have medications that stop the virus spreading. This means that most people can lead a long and full life and have healthy relationships and families.
“Taking an HIV test is quick, simple and confidential. You can get a test from your GP, local sexual health clinic or order one online from the NHS website – Freetesting HIV | Free HIV Kits for Self-testing at Home.
“HIV can affect anyone who has unprotected sex so it’s really important to get tested. Knowing your status helps you get the treatment you need, and it also stops you from unknowing passing the virus on to others.” For more information about HIV visit www.sunderlandsexualhealth.nhs.uk.