Nearly 1,000 people took up the opportunity to get a HIV test in Croydon during the annual drive to raise awareness of the virus, normalise HIV testing and reduce the number of people who are diagnosed late.
Croydon Council worked with health and community organisations for HIV Testing Week to increase the opportunities for people to take a test by setting up additional venues for the two-week period leading to World Aids Day on 1 December.
Local pharmacies, the health hub in central library, Prestige hair and beauty salon and Croydon Voluntary Action were used to offer the free and confidential tests throughout the campaign.
Volunteers, mainly students from health and social care courses at Croydon College, who were out in the borough encouraging people to find out their HIV status, also had thousands of conversations about the importance of regularly testing for HIV.
An early HIV diagnosis can mean a person receives effective treatment where they can live a longer, healthier life and also not pass on the virus to others.
Getting a HIV test is a quick finger-prick test, with the result available in a few minutes. Free support and treatment are offered to residents who are diagnosed with HIV.
“Croydon Council is proud to back the annual HIV testing campaign and it is great that so many people went to the additional community venues we set up to get tested. The campaign ensures that more people in the borough are HIV aware and supported to protect themselves by practicing safe sex. Croydon’s sexual and reproductive health services offer advice and information throughout the year, which includes HIV tests at Croydon University Hospital and other clinical venues.”
Councillor Jane Avis, cabinet member for families, health and social care
Carla Dodd, a student volunteer from Croydon College, said: “It was very rewarding to volunteer with Croydon Council. The people I supported to get tested said it was a quick and easy process. I also found a lot of people did not know much about HIV and the information that we handed out has helped them to have a better understanding of HIV, how it can be contracted and treated, and importantly, how they can reduce their risk of contracting the virus.”
Frank Mukisa Nsubuga, also from Croydon College, said: “It was sometimes challenging to get people talking about HIV, as there is still some stigma about it, but many people were also glad to have this opportunity to get tested. I felt it was a blessing for me to be able to raise awareness of HIV by volunteering during the campaign.”