The three MPs for Brighton and Hove took public HIV tests today (Friday 27 November) to encourage more local people to check for the virus.
The quick and simple finger-prick blood tests were carried out at the Terrence Higgins Trust, in Ship Street, Brighton, as part of National HIV Testing Week.
Tom Boyt, who works as a senior community engagement officer at the trust, tested Simon Kirby, the Conservative MP for Brighton Kemptown, Peter Kyle, the Labour MP for Hove, and Caroline Lucas, the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion.
Former nurse and Brighton and Hove City Council member, Maria Caulfield, now the Conservative MP for Lewes, also took the test today in her constituency.
The MPs flagged up the tests a week after new figures indicated that one in five people living with HIV was unaware of their status. The only way to find out is to take a test.
The Terrence Higgins Trust said: “Testing positive for HIV early means you can access effective treatment and to live as long as anyone else.”
Buses across Brighton have featured posters picturing the National HIV Testing Week ambassador Dr Christian Jessen.
And local barbers and eateries have supported the campaign run by the Terrence Higgins Trust by wearing the distinctive orange and blue “I’m testing” t-shirts.
The aim is to encourage people, specifically gay or bisexual men and black African men and women, to take an HIV test. These groups make up seven out of ten HIV sufferers.
The three Brighton and Hove MP were given their negative results just 15 minutes after they took their test.
Tom Boyt, Senior Community Engagement Officer at Terrence Higgins Trust said: “One of the aims of National HIV Testing Week is to raise awareness of how quick and easy modern tests are.
“We’re delighted that three local MPs are helping us to do this and it was great to have the opportunity to tell Simon, Peter and Caroline more about the work we do at Terrence Higgins Trust.”
Simon Kirby said: “I am delighted to support National HIV Testing Week and Terrence Higgins Trust in their efforts to increase HIV testing in Brighton.
“There are still far too many people undiagnosed with the virus, meaning they are not able to access effective treatment to live as long as anyone else.”
Peter Kyle said: “As I found out today by taking a HIV test, testing is free, fast and simple – and it’s one of the best weapons we have to stop the spread of HIV.”
Caroline Lucas said: “Early testing and diagnosis are key to combating this epidemic and we need to remove the stigma around HIV testing.
“There are now a range of testing options available from postal tests, to GUM clinics, community sites and home testing.
“It’s great to see people across Brighton backing National HIV Testing Week and encouraging everyone to take a test today.”
The Terrence Higgins Trust is open tomorrow (Saturday 28 November) from 10am to 4pm for walk-in tests.
The trust said that 6,151 people had HIV newly diagnosed in the UK in 2014. This figure was 6,032 in 2013 and 6,353 in 2010. Ten years ago – in 2005 – the figure was 7,893. Of new diagnoses, 75 per cent were in men and 25 per cent in women.
It added that National HIV Testing Week is co-ordinated by HIV Prevention England (HPE) and funded by Public Health England, with support, partnership and participation from organisations in the public, statutory and private sectors.
The programme promotes the benefits of regular testing and treatment for both the individual and community. It is led by the Terrence Higgins Trust.
Testing Week started last Saturday (21 November) and is now in its fourth year.
• A candlelit vigil is to be held at the Brighton AIDS Memorial in new Steine Gardens, in Kemp Town, from 6pm to 7pm on Tuesday (1 December) to mark World AIDS Day.
And tomorrow (Saturday 28 November) a Service of Remembrance and Solidarity is due to be held from 10am to noon at the Dorset Gardens Methodist Church.