Friday 1 December is World Aids Day, when people around the world are being asked to join the fight to end the isolation and stigma surrounding HIV, and help to stop its transmission.
In the run-up to it, the North Yorkshire Aids Memorial Quilt has been out and about across the county helping to support the campaign. The Aids Memorial Quilt Project was first started in San Francisco in 1987. It features panels made by family and friends to commemorate the life of their loved ones. This has now grown to be a huge quilt of over 3,000 panels.
Taking inspiration from this, the North Yorkshire Aids Memorial Quilt is a large free-standing quilt with a white Yorkshire Rose for each of those who has died. The Quilt was started by a group of bereaved mothers and partners and is updated each year by North Yorkshire Aids Action.
“Displaying the North Yorkshire AIDS Memorial Quilt during National Testing Week in the run-up to World Aids Day helps to raise awareness about the importance of early testing. It is also a visual reminder of those who lived in our county who were loved and lost to HIV,” said Kath Gallon, Manager at North Yorkshire Aids Action.
County Councillor Caroline Dickinson, North Yorkshire’s Executive Member for Public Health, Prevention and Supported Housing, said: “HIV testing, advice and support is offered across North Yorkshire by the YorSexual Health Service, which started in July 2015 following the award of a £3million contract by North Yorkshire County Council.
“YorSexualHealth runs 27 clinics each week across the whole of York and North Yorkshire. Anyone who is at risk of HIV now or in the future can attend any YorSexualHealth service for a free HIV test. It is routinely offered to patients attending all sexual health services.
“There’s also a free online test available for anyone who prefers that option. It’s so important to remember that HIV is a manageable long-term condition and outcomes are significantly improved with early diagnosis.
“Getting tested for HIV means taking care of your own health, your partner's health and decisions about relationships. Providing funding for an effective sexual health service is an important part of North Yorkshire County Council’s wider work to support the physical, mental and social wellbeing of all our communities.”
There are over 100,000 people living with HIV in the UK and around a quarter of them don’t know they’re HIV positive. In 2016, there were 225 people with HIV living in North Yorkshire. HIV is a treatable condition and no longer a terminal illness. Knowing whether you're HIV positive is essential so that you can access specialist services and treatment.
Effective HIV therapy not only keeps the individual well but it also prevents them from passing the virus onto others. If someone with HIV is diagnosed early and is able to access treatment then their life expectancy is as good as if they were HIV negative.
While there isn’t a high prevalence of HIV in North Yorkshire, it is still important that people take the opportunity to get tested, as anyone who has unprotected sex could be at risk. To find out about where you can get tested or to request a test online visit www.yorsexualhealth.org.uk or call the booking and information line on 01904 721111.