It’s Tower Hamlets first, as the borough’s Health and Wellbeing Board is the first such Board to support the “Halve It” coalition. The move has been warmly welcomed by health campaigners and lesbian and gay activists alike as a move which will encourage other Councils to follow suit as well as improving health in Tower Hamlets – one of 64 Local authorities with high numbers of people living with HIV.
Halve It is a coalition of national experts, committed to tackling the continued health challenges of HIV including reducing late diagnosis of HIV, and ensuring easy access to testing and treatments. A late diagnosis of HIV is harmful to health as it means the virus has had time to weaken the immune system. Being diagnosed early means that the HIV treatments can stop the virus from harming the immune system.
In Tower Hamlets, all new registrants to GP are being offered an HIV test. Testing is now routine for admissions to A&E and will ultimately extend to medical admissions. Tower Hamlets is really only implementing national guidelines, but as other boroughs drag their feet it is setting an example to them to show what can be done if you try.
In the forefront of supporting the move is Chair of the Tower Hamlets HWBB, Mayor Lutfur Rahman, who said: “Getting tested early for HIV is important as treatments are freely available to ensure people living with HIV can continue to live a long and healthy life. As a Health and Wellbeing Board, we are committed to reducing the impact of HIV on our local residents.”
Councillor Abdul Asad, Cabinet Member for Adults and Health Services, said: “We are really proud to be the first Health and Wellbeing Board to support this initiative and I would call on other areas to consider signing up to the Halve it Coalition’s aims. Together we can reduce the number of people who receive a late HIV diagnosis and reduce the associated health harms.”
Dr Somen Banerjee, director of public health for Tower Hamlets Council said: “National estimates suggest there are probably about 400 people in Tower Hamlets who have HIV who have not yet been tested. I would encourage people, especially people from a black ethnic background and gay/ bisexual men, to take an HIV test so that we reduce the number of people both diagnosed late and undiagnosed.”
•For more information on the Halve It coalition visit: www.halveit.org.uk
•Positive East provides support services for anyone affected by HIV who receives HIV treatment or lives in east London. Free confidential HIV test are offered: www.positiveeast.org.uk/
•For more information on sexual health services including opening times visit: www.sho-me.nhs.uk