3rd April 2020

Walk-in for a free NHS HIV test

Somerset County Council Public Health are urging people who may be “at risk” of HIV to walk in and have a test during National HIV Testing Week.

Although Somerset has a relatively small number of people with the condition Public Health are concerned with the number of adults who are being diagnosed at a late stage.  Early detection and treatment – as with many conditions – gives a much better outcome.

Public Health England figures (Sexual and Reproductive Health Profiles for the period 2011-2013) show that in England 45% of the patients presenting with the condition were at a late stage of infection, the point after which treatment should have begun.  In Somerset it is 61.3% and across the South West 46.7%.

Walk-in HIV tests will be available in eight communities across Somerset this month as part of National HIV Testing Week (22-29th November).

The tests are free and confidential and carried out by specialist HIV staff from Taunton’s Musgrove Park Hospital genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic in addition to their normal testing service and Terence Higgins Trust.

There is no need to book an appointment and results will be given in twenty minutes.

Cllr. Christine Lawrence, Chair of Somerset Health and Wellbeing Board, Somerset County Council said: “This is a pilot project in Somerset intended to make it much easier for people who may be “at risk” to have a test.

“Although Somerset doesn’t have high numbers of people who live with HIV we are concerned with the number of adults who are being diagnosed at a late stage of the infection.  Early detection and treatment, as with many conditions, gives a much better outcome.

“Modern treatments are highly effective allowing people nowadays to live with HIV.  It is so much better to get tested rather than keep putting it off.”

The tests will be available in the following places:

  • Monday 24th November:  Williton Surgery Robert Street, Williton (1pm-6.30pm)
    • Tuesday 25th November: Crown Medical Practice, Venture Way, Taunton 8.30-11.30am and Axbridge Surgery, Houlgate Way, Axbridge (12.30-6pm)
    • Wednesday 26th November: Chard Tawstock Surgery, 7 High Street St, Chard (1-5pm); Frome Medical Practice (MASH Clinic) Enos Way Frome (3-5pm)
    • Thursday 27th November: Glastonbury Surgery, Feversham Lane (8.30-12.30pm) and Street Vine Surgery, Hindhayes Lane, Street (1-6.30pm)
    • Friday 28th November: Cannington Surgery, Mill Lane, Cannington (12.30pm-6pm)

Michelle Hawkes, Public Health Specialist, Somerset County Council, who commissions Somerset’s sexual health services said: “I welcome this innovative approach to bringing HIV testing directly into the community during National HIV Testing Week.  I hope this will encourage people who may have put themselves at risk of contracting HIV to take a test.”

Dr. Christian Jesson of the BAFTA award winning ‘Embarrasing Bodies’ programme says: “Take our simple test to see if you’ve put yourself at risk of HIV” onhttp://www.hivaware.org.uk/.

The site also includes lots of useful information on HIV.  Information also at NHS Choiceswww.nhs.uk

Please telephone 01823 344888 if you need further information about these events.