HIV Home Sampling
'I didn't think it would happen to me'
Herts resident John was diagnosed as HIV positive after using a home test and is now urging people who might be at risk to get tested at the earliest opportunity.
John Pynaert was diagnosed in June 2013 when he used a postal test service that was offered by a London charity.
John said: "At first my mind went blank, then my thoughts were 'oh god what, why, who and how?' I became a lot more introverted and didn't communicate or go out much for the first six months. Since meeting with the Hertfordshire HIV charity HertsAid, I am now talking about it more, being open about it and trying to help other people.
"It doesn't really impact my life day to day. I still get up, still do what I want, still socialise. It now doesn't worry me what people's reaction will be like it did at first. I just try to educate people, I am an open book."
Knowing your HIV status enables individual's to access treatment early that will help them to live for longer and make them less likely to pass the virus on to other sexual partners.
In order to make it as quick and easy as possible for people to get tested, Hertfordshire County Council, in association with Public Health England, is providing a free and confidential home testing service to those at most risk.
John offered advice to anyone that may be at risk. He said: "Talk about it with someone and definitely get tested. There are lots of places to get tested and it's all confidential."
The national home sampling service (www.freetesting.hiv) makes kits available for free to men and women at higher risk of HIV infection in Hertfordshire. Since its launch during HIV Testing Week in November 2015 hundreds of people have requested one.
In 2014, there were 1,087 people living with diagnosed HIV in Hertfordshire. This is 1.58 per 1,000 residents aged 15-59. This is lower than the 2.2 per 1,000 in England as a whole.
In the UK there are an estimated 107,800 people living with HIV, of whom an estimated 26,100 (24 per cent) are unaware of their infection.
Hertfordshire County Council has invested in its share of this nationwide HIV home sampling service to help improve early diagnosis of the virus. The service allows people to order a free self-sampling kit from a secure website, mailed to an address of their choice, and then return a self-taken blood sample for testing.
Alongside the introduction of the home sampling service, Hertfordshire County Council is putting in place a range of measures to promote more HIV testing. These include:
- Increasing HIV testing through GPs, healthcare and community settings, particularly in areas where HIV rates and late diagnoses are highest
- Increasing opportunities to reach at risk groups in their communities
- Continuing to work alongside partners locally to increase awareness of the importance of testing
To apply for a kit visit www.freetesting.hiv
If you want to find out more about the sexual health services available in Hertfordshire, including where you can have an HIV test, go to www.hertsdirect.org/sexualhealth or call Sexual Health Hertfordshire on 0300 008 5522.