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World Aids Day 2013

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Thursday 28 November 2013

Sunday 1 December is World Aids Day 2013 and the Health & Social Services Department's Sexual Health Unit is supporting the Act Aware campaign with free and confidential HIV testing.

Tests will be on offer at "Drop-in Clinics" held at the Orchard Clinic at Castel Hospital on Monday 2 December and Tuesday 3 December from 8:30 to 13:00 and from 14:00 until 18:00.

Sexual Health Coordinator, Marianne Duquemin said:

"Anyone who has any concerns whatsoever about their sexual health should come to discuss these with us.  The Orchard Clinic provides a confidential and non-judgmental service, and all staff are experienced in dealing with HIV and other sexually-transmitted infections."

The Orchard Clinic is committed to trying to prevent new HIV infections, and to ensuring optimal care for individuals living with HIV, through the provision of antiretroviral therapy in accordance with UK best practice guidelines.

In particular, the establishment of Multidisciplinary Combined Clinics, supported by doctors from UCL Hospital and St Thomas' Hospital in the UK, has helped to ensure that people living with HIV in Guernsey continue to receive a high standard of care without having to leave the island.

Dr Nikki Brink, Guernsey Orchard Clinic Consultant, said:

"53 people infected with HIV have been diagnosed by, or have transferred their care to, the Orchard Clinic since 1999. Thankfully, early intervention and treatment means that no HIV-infected individual under the care of the Orchard Clinic has seen their condition progress to AIDS - and people living locally with HIV can expect a normal lifespan, if they are diagnosed and treated early."

"Most importantly, the Bailiwick has achieved its target of zero AIDS-related deaths every year for the past five years."

Next week's "Drop-in Clinics" will enable anyone who is worried about their sexual health to have a free test for HIV, opening up access to treatment and support for anyone who may be infected. Stella Vile, Lead Nurse at the Orchard Clinic, explained:

"Effective treatment with antiretroviral therapy can reduce infectiousness by 96% and enable people with HIV to live a normal life. However, in order to treat someone we first have to know if they are infected with HIV. Over the past few years, there have been new infections across the age range - from early 20s to mid-70s - so it's really important that people of all ages understand the importance of diagnosing and preventing infection."

Stigma and discrimination remain a concern locally, but the Orchard Clinic staff feel that progress is being made, albeit slowly:

"Although HIV is still an issue in the Bailiwick, the voices of people living with HIV in Guernsey are often not heard," said Dr Brink. "The reality of living with HIV for people in the UK is often a life of isolation and loneliness, and this may be magnified for individuals living in a small community such as ours."

Anyone who wants to find out more about the "Drop-in Clinics" is invited to call 707707, or to just drop in to the Orchard Clinic on Monday or Tuesday next week.

-ENDS-

Further information

Act Aware Campaign and "Fact -up" - 2013 Campaign

This year's campaign focuses on asking people to increase their own knowledge about the facts relating to HIV and using that knowledge to protect themselves and others from HIV infection.

1. People living with HIV have a normal life span if diagnosed and treated in time.

2. Men and women living with HIV can become parents of an HIV-free baby.

3. Treatment can mean that people living with HIV are no longer infectious.

4. BUT people living with HIV may still face stigma and discrimination.

Milestones and history

It is now 30 years since the first cases of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome were reported in Los Angeles in June 1981; reports of a similar syndrome appeared in the UK shortly after, which then prompted the creation of the UK AIDS surveillance scheme in 1982.

It is important to differentiate between HIV infection and AIDS. HIV infection is an infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), while AIDS occurs with a declining immune system when an individual can develop infections and certain types of cancer.

The development of an HIV test in 1984 was the next important milestone and to date 120,000 people have been diagnosed with HIV in the UK.

World AIDS Day was started on 1 December 1988, with the aim of raising money, increasing awareness, fighting prejudice and improving education; it is an important reminder that HIV and AIDS have not gone away and that we still face many challenges.

The next major milestone was the development of effective therapy, which, although not curing HIV, has meant that HIV is a chronic manageable condition and no longer a fatal infection; treated early, people with HIV can now expect a normal lifespan.

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