Isle of Wight first to offer HIV blood spot testing in pharmacies
World Aids Day on the 1st December marks the introduction of a new more accessible HIV testing service on the Island. As the first of its kind in England, Dr Keith Ridge, Chief Pharmaceutical Officer for England, will be opening it.
From the 1st December eight pharmacies across the Island will be offering free HIV blood spot testing to anyone who thinks they may have been exposed to HIV. The confidential test requires a simple finger prick of blood which is taken in a private consultation room.
Felicity Young, Consultant Nurse for the Sexual Health Service at St. Mary’s Hospital, said: “HIV is a virus which attacks and damages the immune system over a period of time. People with the virus may become susceptible to illnesses that a healthy immune system would be able to fight off. With approximately 7,000 people newly diagnosed in the UK last year, it is vital that everyone, young and old, understands what HIV is and the action they need to take to stop the spread.“
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system and although it is widely known as a sexually transmitted infection, it can also be passed through blood and bodily fluids. The immune system is vital for fighting off disease and infection and exposure to HIV can weaken the body’s natural defences. However, if detected early HIV is manageable and many with HIV now, with appropriate treatment, are able to lead normal lives. The virus often has no symptoms until the very late stages so it if you think you are at risk of HIV or if you have never taken an HIV test it is very important to get tested now.
The HIV testing service will be available at eight pharmacy sites across the Island. Anyone who tests positive for HIV at a community pharmacy will be offered a fast track referral to the Sexual Health Service at St Mary’s Hospital for further testing and treatment, if required.
Community pharmacies on the Island are also continuing to offer free, confidential blood spot testing for Hepatitis B and C to anyone who thinks they are at risk. These viruses are often referred to as ’blood borne viruses’ as they are carried in the blood and are transmitted by blood to blood contact. Left untreated, they can also cause serious health problems. Pharmacists also play an important part in educating the public regarding safe sex and prevention of infections like syphilis and gonorrhoea.
“We continue to develop our pharmacy service on the Island and are always looking to work with external partners to improve patient access to services and expand on the successful work of pharmacies on the Isle of Wight,” said Kevin Noble, Community Pharmacy Lead at NHS Isle of Wight. “We want to ensure the Island community can easily access the services they need and by offering testing at community pharmacies we are able to make them much more accessible for everyone.”
Kate Suitor, who is part of Isle of Wight Council’s Drug & Alcohol Action Team (DAAT) Care Manager (HIV Services), said: “The DAAT have fully supported this pilot and acknowledge the unique relationship pharmacists have with those who use their service. This ease of access has improved the delivery of blood borne virus services on the Isle of Wight.
“The addition of HIV testing is a positive step forward to detect infections for those who may not access other services. It is also hoped that there will be a reduction in the stigma & discrimination that surrounds HIV.”
There will be a photo opportunity at Boots Pharmacy, Ryde at 12noon on Tuesday 1st December with Chief Pharmaceutical Officer, Dr Keith Ridge.
Notes for Editors
1. Blood spot testing from the 1st December will be available at the following pharmacies:
• Day Lewis Pharmacy, Cowes
• Your Local Boots Pharmacy, Cowes
• Lloyds Pharmacy, Pyle Street, Newport
• Siddys Convent Pharmacy, Carisbrooke
• Boots Pharmacy, Ryde
• Gibbs & Gurnell Pharmacy, Ryde
• Regent Pharmacy, Shanklin
• Your Local Boots Pharmacy, Sandown
2. People at risk of HIV are assessed against the following criteria:
• Have you ever had a partner with known HIV?
• Have you or your partner ever injected drugs?
• Males- Have you ever had a male partner?
• Females- Have you ever had a bisexual male partner?
• Have you ever had a partner who was not from Western Europe?
• Have you ever paid for/ been paid for sex?
• Have you ever received a blood transfusion?
• Have you had any operations/ injections/ tattoos abroad?
3. World Aids Day is promoted by the National Aids Trust (NAT) and the theme this year is HIV: Reality. NAT findings suggest that public knowledge of HIV in the UK is declining and on World Aids Day they are asking everyone to discover the real stories about HIV in the UK today suggesting that understanding the facts is the key to fighting prejudice and protecting yourself and others.
For further information contact the NHS Isle of Wight communications team on 01983-552003. Further information about health services can be found at www.iow.nhs.uk or www.nhs.uk.