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Talk and Test project awarded innovative HIV prevention fund

Published: 24 November 2015 Tags: public health england, hiv, bha By John Walding

HIV (Human immunodeficiency virus) remains a major public health concern. Rates of infection are continuing to rise among certain groups of the population and the new Greater Manchester Talk and Test project aims to address this through tackling late HIV diagnosis among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM) and Black African communities. These two risk groups continue to carry a disproportionate burden of the HIV epidemic in England.

LGBT Foundation are working in partnership with BHA for Equality to deliver Point of Care Testing (POCT), supported by a multi-agency project steering group which includes membership from the local Public Health England (PHE) team, Greater Manchester Commissioners and Bridgewater Community Healthcare Trust.

A report by the Centre for Public Health at Liverpool John Moores University shows that Greater Manchester had the highest number of HIV cases (4,482) and the greatest number of new cases (468).

There has also been 14% rise in the number of young people in the North West accessing HIV care for the first time - this is the equivalent of two young people seeking treatment each week. Greater Manchester also had the highest number infected through injecting drug use, accounting for 68% infected by this route in the region. However, targeted and innovative local initiatives can reduce the risk of people catching or passing on HIV.

The project will:
· Provide community based POCT aimed at gay, bisexual and MSM and African communities
· During the lifetime of the 1 year initiative, the project will provide 1,000 HIV tests
· Undertake wellbeing assessments and health goal-setting, maximising the value of each contact
· Discuss risk reduction strategies and provide condoms and lubrication.
· Offer follow-up assessments to those that opt-in, to encourage regular testing and outcome measuring.

This welcome news is released during National HIV Testing Week which started on 21st November and is followed by World AIDS Day on 1st December. The Campaign is a national effort to increase HIV testing among England’s key populations most affected by HIV. LGBT Foundation is one of Greater Manchester’s lead campaigners in reaching out to gay, bisexual and other MSM in the promotion, awareness and campaign for testing.

Rob Cookson, Deputy Chief Executive for the LGBT Foundation said: “This Point of Care Testing initiative has a strong partnership approach, including the LGBT Foundation, BHA for Equality, Local Authorities across Greater Manchester and the local PHE team. All of us are delighted that we have been successful; as a result of this initiative, around 1,000 people will know their HIV status. This community based testing initiative; ‘Talk and Test’ will make a direct contribution to tackling late HIV diagnosis amongst, gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men and Black African communities.”

Councillor Paul Andrews, executive member for Adult Health and Wellbeing said: “We welcome the news that Black Health Agency (BHA) for Equality and LGBT Foundation have been awarded funding to pilot point of care testing for HIV in Manchester. The introduction of point of care testing will expand the range of testing options and improve choice. We will work with LGBT Foundation and BHA for Equality to support them to introduce this important pilot.”

Councillor Carl Austin, deputy Lord Mayor and Lead member for gay men's issues said: “Manchester City Council is pleased to support National HIV Testing Week. Around one in four people living with HIV are undiagnosed and unaware of their condition. National HIV Testing Week aims to encourage more people to test for HIV and we support this important ambition.”

Councillor Paul Dennett, Strategic Assistant Mayor, Salford City Council, said: “This is excellent news as Salford has a greater than average number of people living with HIV in our communities. Anything that we can do to encourage early testing and diagnosis is welcome for people’s peace of mind or to start treatment which can help them live a long and healthier life.”

Salford City Council has signed up to the national Halve It campaign, launched by 21 HIV charities, which aims to halve the number of people diagnosed late with HIV and those living with undiagnosed HIV.

Professor Kevin Fenton, Director of Health and Wellbeing at Public Health England said: “While we are seeing HIV rates declining in the general population, it is still a serious problem within certain communities. The national innovation fund supports projects that offer creative approaches to a longstanding issue, boosting local action to help reduce the rates of HIV among high-risk groups, such as gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men, and Black African Communities.”

The new National HIV prevention fund is supporting selected local projects that offer new and innovative ways of delivering HIV prevention, aiming to turn around the ever increasing numbers of new HIV diagnoses among certain groups of the population. Public Health England has awarded £500,000 to support seven innovative voluntary-led HIV projects across England.

For more information on the Talk and Test project, please contact Sophie Beer O’Brien, Social Support Co-ordinator at LGBT Foundation: [email protected] or call 0345 3 303030.