Fred Annin, who heads Actionplus, a small community organisation founded in 1997 to raise awareness about HIV, hopes to encourage those who are at a higher risk of infection, particularly African Caribbean’s, to get tested.
Statistics show that 44 per cent of those living with HIV, which stands for human immunodeficiency virus, in the UK are from African and Caribbean communities.
A more recent data showed that over 100,000 people in the UK have HIV. However 25 per cent of them do not know they have the condition.
Which is why Annin hopes to “raise awareness” by providing rapid and easy HIV testing sessions that begin on Sunday (Nov 24) in a church in Walthamstow.
The free project which coincides with the HIV testing week (Nov 22- 29) began after Annin went to Ghana in 2007.
He said: “I went to Ghana… within a month I was able to open two [church] branches. However the idea changed. [There are] a lot of the churches in the country but [they were] not helping those [who are] disadvantaged.”
The number of black Africans living with a diagnosed HIV infection has increased from 9,339 in 2002 to 25,331 in 2011 – nearly a four-fold increase.
Annin added: “Most times people do not seek help because of the stigma attached to the disease.”
Gareth Davies, the programme manager at Actionplus Foundation, is encouraging testing. The charity which also has a base in Ghana helped to raise awareness in the West African country where three per cent were living with HIV ten years ago, but now it has dropped to 1.7 per cent.
Davis said the point of testing “is so that you know about your infection early so you can start taking medication that will help you live longer.”
He said: “Stigma leads to people hiding their problem and not seeking help and may not seek help until it is in very advance stage which makes it complicated to treat.”
Although HIV is still incurable, someone who is diagnosed early can still have a full life, a near-normal life expectancy, and start a family.
Davies added: “People are not aware of the advantage made in the medications that are available. They see HIV as a terminal disease rather than a long term health condition”
With a series of rapid test taking place from next week individuals can find out about their status within five to ten minutes.
“The technology is advance so far we can now find out so quickly now,” Davies said.
“People who have put themselves at risk can also get help now by using PEP (Post exposure proxphylaxis) this is used within 72 hours after being in contact with an infected person.”