Posted on Friday 22 November 2013
HIV team - Dr Annemiek de Ruiter, matron David Darling, sister Frida Nubila
Practise safe sex and get an HIV test at a Guy’s and St Thomas' sexual health clinic or at your GP surgery. This is the message for local people on World AIDS Day (Sunday 1 December).
Lambeth and Southwark have the highest rates of HIV in England. 14 people in every 1,000 in Lambeth and 12 in every 1,000 in Southwark have HIV.
Early testing is essential to help people with HIV reduce their risk of serious illness and to stop the spread of the condition.
HIV can affect anyone, although men who have sex with men and people of African and Caribbean origin are more likely to have the condition.
Mother of two Judith (not her real name), 55, from Southwark was diagnosed with HIV in 1997. She had been feeling unwell with what she thought was a heavy cold but it was only after a routine gynaecology appointment that she discovered that she had HIV.
Judith says: "I lost the sight in one eye due to shingles and have had a rare form of cancer. This was because I was diagnosed with HIV at a late stage.
"When I was first diagnosed I had to take 20 pills in the morning and 20 in the evening. Now I just take one a day. Things have changed a lot.
"My advice is that if you are HIV positive, make sure you attend your hospital appointments, and take your medication every day. It is also important to involve your GP in your care."
Narinder Sinclair, a matron who manages our community sexual health clinics, says: "We have several walk-in clinics across Lambeth and Southwark that offer free and confidential advice in a friendly environment.
“Some, like our Streatham Hill clinic, open six days a week. Our men only clinic at Vauxhall Riverside, held on Thursdays, offers HIV tests with results in minutes.
"When people come to see us we always offer them a full sexual health check-up to test for sexually transmitted infections including chlamydia, gonorrhoea, HIV, syphilis and Hepatitis B.
“Whatever the reason for attendance, it makes sense to get tested regularly so that you can take care of your own sexual health and the sexual health of current or future partners.”
For those who are diagnosed with HIV, a one-stop specialist clinic is available at St Thomas' Hospital. The team includes specialist HIV doctors and nurses, a dietitian, physiotherapist and a consultant who looks after HIV positive women who are pregnant.
The clinic cares for around 3,100 patients at any one time. The majority visit their doctor or specialist nurse twice a year.
David Darling, matron with St Thomas' Hospital’s HIV team, says: "It can be very frightening to be diagnosed with HIV. But through early diagnosis and regular monitoring of the patient’s health, especially the part of the body that fights infection, we can help our patients to stay well and live as normal a life as possible.”
Find your nearest sexual health clinic and opening times.