Free self-sampling kits to test for HIV at home can be ordered from www.test.hiv.
Throughout the year, Kingston has a number of services offering HIV testing including the specialist sexual health service at the Wolverton Centre in Kingston Hospital, community sexual health services run by Your Healthcare CIC, and GP practices. To find a service near you visit www.kingston.gov.uk/
Why do I need to get tested?
- HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) attacks and weakens the immune system, making it hard to fight infection and disease and is most commonly transmitted through unprotected sexual intercourse (sex without using a condom) with someone who is HIV positive.
- HIV is found in the body fluids of an infected person, which includes semen, vaginal and anal fluids, blood, and breast milk. It is a fragile virus and does not survive outside the body for long. HIV cannot be transmitted through sweat or urine.
- around one in five people who are infected with HIV do not know they have it and may appear healthy for many years.
- whilst there is no cure, highly effective treatment is available that slows down the speed at which the virus attacks the immune system. This means that people with HIV in the UK can now expect to live a normal lifespan, as well as protect others from getting infected.
- starting treatment for HIV at the earliest possible time is vital as it leads to better health outcomes for individuals, as the conditions associated with HIV can be better controlled. Early treatment can also significantly reduce the likelihood of a person living with HIV passing-on the infection to others.
- London as a whole has the highest prevalence of HIV in the country. Kingston's HIV prevalence rate, whilst lower than the London average, is still considered high, with more than 2 people infected with HIV for every 1000 adults aged 15-59 years.
- HIV affects some groups more than others, with Black African communities, and men who have sex with men more at risk than other groups.
What can I do to protect myself from HIV?
Anyone who has sex without a condom is at risk of HIV infection.
The best way to prevent HIV is to use a condom for sex. Used correctly, condoms are extremely effective in preventing HIV, as well as other sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancy. Condoms can be obtained for free from a variety of sexual health services in Kingston.
Knowing your HIV status and that of your partner is also important. For people with HIV, effective treatment (antiretroviral therapy) significantly reduces the risk of passing HIV to sexual partners.
The only way to find out if you or your partner have HIV is to get an HIV test. This involves testing your blood or saliva for signs of the infection. It is recommended that you get a test if you've had unprotected sex at any time in the past. Test regularly if you have a change of sexual partner.
If you think there's a very high chance you've been exposed to the virus, emergency anti-HIV medication called PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) may stop you becoming infected if started within three days of possible exposure.
Test. Protect. Prevent HIV.