Making It Work: Testing Times in Wakefield
posted by Jess Wynn
on 17th November 2015

In England in 2013, 59 per 1,000 MSM aged between 15-59 years old were estimated to have HIV. 16% of MSM were undiagnosed.

In 2013, 56 per 1,000 Africans aged between 15-59 year old were estimated to have HIV. 38% of African men and 31% of African women were undiagnosed.

31% of MSM and 58% of African people were diagnosed late in 2013, this is vitally important, you are more likely to die within a year if you are diagnosed late and it reduces your treatment options. 530 people with HIV infection died in 2013, most of whom were diagnosed late.

This is preventable and unacceptable.

Yorkshire MESMAC has always championed removing barriers to HIV testing and prevention, we were the first in Yorkshire to pioneer community-based HIV testing in 2007 at a time when we had resistance from many saying that it would not work. We know it works.

We stock LGB&T* and African venues with condom and lubricant packs. We supply condoms of different sizes and different materials. We post supplies of condoms as one offs, weekly, fortnightly and monthly. We know using condoms with water or silicone-based lube consistently works.

We train and talk to thousands of our service users with messages around safer sex, harm reduction and never, ever judge or patronise. We know getting the right information without stigma works.

Yet HIV is on the increase. People are still passing it on. You are more likely to pass on HIV if you don't know you have it. The undiagnosed figure needs to go down so that the HIV infection rate in our communities can go down.

We know that if you test for HIV regularly and don't pass on HIV as a result, that works. Yorkshire MESMAC recommends that testing for HIV every 6 months will enable the communities most affected by HIV to massively reduce onwards HIV infection and increase the number of people alive in the next decade. If you have a high number of sexual partners, quarterly testing is recommended.

In Wakefield, we have a pioneering postal HIV & Syphilis service for Wakefield District residents who are MSM and/or African. What we plan to do is remove barriers to testing for HIV further. It is not enough to test once a blue moon or when you are worried. HIV testing should be as easy as possible. We guarantee that if you get tested with Yorkshire MESMAC Wakefield through Testing Times, we will offer to order and send you a postal HIV test in six months or sooner (depending on the last time you were at risk) OR get in touch with you to remind you that you are due for your three or six monthly check.

We are now regularly testing in Hemsworth, Pontefract and Castleford as well as 12 Cheapside, Wakefield, WF1 2SD. We will set up pop-up clinics in more places in Wakefield District. We will keep on supplying thousands of condoms and lube, providing free, fast and confidential HIV testing and looking for ways that we can smash down barriers to HIV testing.

Come along to our FREE drop-in HIV testing sessions, order a free postal HIV & Syphilis testing kitor request condoms to be sent out to you. Let's reduce HIV transmission just because we don't know we have it and break the cycle of HIV increasing in Wakefield's future.