Scotland’s first ever testing week has kicked off to tackle increasing rates of HIV, hepatitis C and sexually transmitted infections in the country.
More people than ever before are living with HIV in Scotland, with 1 in 8 people with HIV unaware they have the virus, while 40% of those with hepatitis C remain undiagnosed.
Now Testing Week Scotland, which launches runs from 11 -17 September, will aim to tackle these high rates and improve sexual health.
Leading third sector organisations are working together to encourage Scots to #KnowYourRisk, by raising awareness of the different ways STIs, HIV and hepatitis can be passed on. People can then assess whether they have been at risk, and do something about it.
In 2016, 285 people were newly diagnosed with HIV in Scotland, with gay and bisexual men, and people who inject drugs, most affected. In the same year, 1,594 people were diagnosed with hepatitis C, with people who inject drugs most affected.
Organisations including Hepatitis Scotland, HIV Scotland, Positive Help, SX, Terrence Higgins Trust, Waverley Care and NHS boards across the country, are encouraging people to explore the range of testing options now available and find the right one for them.
George Valiotis, speaking on behalf of the Testing Week Scotland Action Group, said: “It’s important people test and get treatment. Today, effective treatments mean that people with HIV can live a long and healthy life, and can’t pass it on, while hepatitis C can be cured, and STIs can be treated effectively. But undiagnosed and untreated HIV, hepatitis C and other STIs can cause major health complications.”
Scott Agnew, a comedian living with HIV who is backing Scotland’s first testing week, said: “Knowing your HIV status is vitally important. I was diagnosed just over two years ago, but because I tested regularly there was only three months between me contracting HIV and it being picked up in a test. This meant the damage to my immune system was minimal and that I could be put on effective treatment straight away. Now because I have an undetectable viral load I can’t pass HIV on to anyone else.”
“Aside from the obvious medical benefits, there’s also a peace of mind that comes with knowing your status. If you’re negative, great, now you know, and if you’re positive you’ll be well looked after and knowing that your medication will keep you healthy and that you can’t infect anyone else is a huge relief.”
Tests are available from sexual health clinics, GPs, community services and online to test at home.
To find out more about Testing Week Scotland and how to get a test, visit www.KnowYourRisk.scot
You can also show your support by adding the Testing Week Scotland Twibbon to your social media profiles and sharing: http://twibbon.com/support/testing-week-scotland