Updated: Friday, 22nd May 2020 @ 2:15pm

‘Do yourself a favour and get tested’: Manchester councillor’s plea ahead of World Aids Day

‘Do yourself a favour and get tested’: Manchester councillor’s plea ahead of World Aids Day

By Ana Hine

A candlelit vigil will take place on Sunday to mark World AIDS Day with a Manchester councillor urging people to get tested for the disease.

People are being encouraged to get tested for HIV ahead of the event and wear red ribbons to show their support.

The vigil has been organised by the Manchester World AIDS Day partnership, compromised of The Lesbian and Gay Foundation, Manchester City Council, George House Trust and a number of other HIV and sexual health agencies.

Councillor Kevin Peel, lead member for LGBT issues for Manchester City Council, said there are an estimated 500 people in the city living with HIV who do not know they have the disease.

He added that life expectancy can reduce by up to 15 years if a diagnosis is made late. In Manchester there were 230 new HIV diagnoses this year, with 442 in Greater Manchester as a whole.

"We need to end the stigma, end the apathy and raise awareness that HIV is still a big issue,” said Cllr Peel.

"Do yourself a favour and get tested now."

National Testing Week was launched last year to provide an opportunity for people to get tested ahead of World AIDS Day, held every December 1. The testing week runs from November 22 to 29.

Peter Boyle, lead services adviser for George House Trust, explained that with an early diagnosis people can expect to live a ‘near normal lifespan’ with health check-ups regularly and treatment offered when it’s the right time for them. 

However, he said: “Untreated HIV and late diagnosis can cause problems for peoples' health, without question.

“If someone is living with HIV, and is not aware of it, the virus can be doing serious damage to the immune system, often with no obvious symptoms.”

The George House Trust provides support for people living with or affected by HIV in the North West by running peer support spaces and information sessions. Their service advisers can also, if necessary, meet people at HIV clinics across Greater Manchester.

Mr Boyle advises people at risk of coming into contact with HIV to get tested regularly no less than once a year and everyone sexually active to take a test ‘just to be sure’. 

Founded in 1988, World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day. It aims to stress the importance of reducing new infections, as well as serving as a day of remembrance.

Mr Boyle said: “George House Trust would encourage everyone to wear a red ribbon, to that they are HIV aware and to show support for those people living with HIV today.”

Starting at 6.15pm in Sackville Gardens the candlelit procession and vigil will end up in Eagle Bar where free mulled wine and mince pies will be provided.

Chart-toppers Stooshe will also be performing some of their hits – including Black Heart and Love Me at the traditionally male-only venue. All genders will be welcome.

Rob Cookson, director of business development for the LGF, said:  “The Lesbian and Gay Foundation is delighted to play its full part in promoting National HIV Testing Week.

“If you’ve never tested before or haven’t tested for a while, it’s important to remember that it’s really easy to test and the benefits of knowing your HIV status are huge.”

The LGF offers home testing kits for HIV which can be picked up at their building on Richmond Street during the week until 7pm or ordered from their website here.

Picture courtesy of Trygve Utstumo via Flickr, with thanks.

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