Sexual health experts from Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust will be on hand at this weekend’s Birmingham Pride festival, to offer locals free and confidential finger-prick tests for hepatitis-B, hepatitis-C and HIV.
Working alongside the city-wide community sexual health service, Healthy Gay Life, and supported by HIV awareness charity, Saving Lives, the team plan to offer dry blood spot tests to as many revellers as possible. This is a simple finger-prick test which can be taken quickly and easily outside of a clinical setting.
Heartlands Hospital HIV specialist consultant, Dr Steve Taylor, said: “Put simply, testing saves lives. One in four of those who are living with HIV in the UK don’t know they are infected which means they can’t access today’s life-saving treatments, and may unknowingly be passing on their infection to others. Birmingham has one of the highest rates of undiagnosed HIV outside London and with its diverse ethnic background; will also carry a large proportion of undiagnosed cases of viral hepatitis. If left undiagnosed, both hepatitis-B and C can lead to cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer.
“All three of these viruses can infect people without them knowing, and remain undiagnosed for over ten years without presenting symptoms. The dry blood spot test is one way to increase the number of people getting tested for all three blood-born infections. The dried blood spots are sent to the regional laboratories at Public Health Birmingham for analysis. Everyone who tests will be given a results card with a number unique to them, and a phone number to call our team of health advisers when the results are ready.
“Early diagnosis and treatment is the best way to manage HIV and both hepatitis-B and C, and offers those infected the chance to live full and healthy lives.”
Nigel Burbidge, manager of Healthy Gay Life, said: “Issues of access and stigma still dissuade many from taking the test for these infections,” he explains. “Presenting testing to communities in familiar environments, and with fresh and accessible messages, will improve take-up of testing – and therefore the health of many people.
“The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has recommended more testing amongst men who have sex with men. The dry blood spot test takes testing to the people, and whilst we’d stress a test in a clinic will provide the most accurate result, the spot test is still a great way to check your status and become more aware of testing as part of your regular health regime. Pride offers us the opportunity to achieve that, and we really want to get as many people as possible tested over the course of the weekend.”
The testing team will be present for both days of Birmingham Pride, between 10am and 7pm at Healthy Gay Life, 146 Bromsgrove Street.