Take a test, save a life

Charity offering HIV testing kits at Birmingham Caribbean Festival.

Saving Lives, the Birmingham-based HIV awareness-raising charity, will be offering free and confidential HIV testing kits to attendees of the Birmingham Caribbean Festival this weekend.

The Caribbean Festival has been targeted as a key event in the calendar for raising UK awareness of HIV, as black African and black Caribbean communities account for more than 30% of HIV cases nation-wide, despite making up less than 3% cent of the population.

Dr Steve Taylor, Medical Director of Saving Lives and an HIV consultant at Birmingham Heartlands Hospital said, “More than one in five people in the UK who have HIV are unaware of their infection. In the UK, almost 2% of heterosexual black men aged between 15 and 44 and more than 4% of heterosexual black women in the same age group have HIV. There is a reluctance to getting tested, and half of all UK cases of late HIV diagnoses are of African or Caribbean heritage.”

Cathy, an HIV-positive woman and an ambassador for Saving Lives understands first-hand the importance of early diagnosis. “People who are diagnosed late may get much sicker than people diagnosed early. This is a tragedy, given HIV is now a treatable condition that that in some circumstances requires just one pill a day.”

The free testing kits to be distributed at the festival are already an established part of the Saving Live’s TakeATestUK service, which provides postal testing kits nationwide, and boasts support from the Heartlands HIV Service. The service offers users direct access to NHS quality self-testing HIV kits, expert analysis and a unique aftercare service. This professional aftercare service is what makes these test kits unique.

If the test result is positive or inconclusive, then a highly trained NHS health advisor will make contact to provide advice, appropriate clinical support and guidance on next steps. This aftercare service ensures no one is left alone to cope with a potentially life changing diagnosis. If the test result is negative, then a discrete text message will instead be sent.

The free testing kits will be distributed through voucher codes handed out at the festival. The codes can be redeemed on the TakeATestUK website for direct and confidential delivery to the address entered. The test kit will arrive in an unmarked envelope, to be sent back free of charge to a laboratory managed by Public Health England.

Saving Lives promotes awareness of sexual health and HIV across the UK. They are supported by celebrities, sportspeople and musicians – as well as many individuals living with the HIV virus.

Celebrity DJ Colin Francis (Ministry of Sound/DJ/Producer) is a supporter of the current campaign. “There is a lot of stigma around HIV. But it is a treatable condition that anyone can become infected by – it only takes one sexual encounter, maybe with someone who doesn’t know their status. It’s safest to get tested, and these kits offer a completely confidential way of doing so.”

Curtis Davies, one of Saving Lives footballing patrons, a premier league player for Hull City FC. “The charity’s message is simple. Don’t be afraid of testing for HIV, with today’s medicines, you can live a full and long life with HIV – if you get tested early enough.”