PEOPLE across East Sussex are being encouraged to get tested for HIV as part of a national campaign week.

Public Health chiefs at East Sussex County Council are calling on people to test for HIV during National HIV Testing Week, which runs from Monday, February 5.

HIV testing is quick, confidential and free. Most people contract HIV from someone who doesn’t know they have it and testing is the only way for people to learn their HIV status.

It’s never been easier to get an HIV test and to get a result quickly. Both in person and at home testing is available and many tests provide the results in just a few minutes.

Darrell Gale, East Sussex Director of Public Health, said: “Finding out if you have HIV means you can start life-saving treatment, stay healthy and avoid passing the virus onto others.

“The sooner you start treatment, the less likely you are to become seriously ill. People who are diagnosed early and get treatment can expect to live a normal lifespan.

“Once you’re on treatment and your viral load remains undetectable, then you can’t pass it on to others.”

HIV can affect anyone regardless of sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, gender, age, or where they live.

There were 17 new HIV diagnoses in East Sussex residents in 2021.

In East Sussex, late-stage infection was found in half of all HIV diagnosis in women, 29 per cent of heterosexual men and 21 per cent of men who report sex with other men.

Mr Gale continued: “Late diagnosis correlates to poorer long-term health outcomes and can be prevented by having a test if you have ever had unprotected sex.

“Anyone diagnosed with HIV in the UK can access free treatment and support.

“This year marks the tenth anniversary of National HIV Testing Week and I’d urge anyone who thinks they may be at risk of having HIV to take the test as soon as possible.”

Anyone who is HIV negative may be able to take pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medicine to reduce their risk of getting the virus. PrEP is available for free from sexual health clinics.

Further advice and support can be found on the East Sussex Sexual Health website, www.eastsussexsexualhealth.co.uk, which provides residents with a ‘one-stop shop’ for information on sexual health and contraception.

The site includes links to access free condoms, which are an effective form of protection against HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), information on PrEP, and free home STI testing information.

Information about HIV testing is available at www.startswithme.org.uk.