Director of Public Health at Portsmouth City Council, Helen Atkinson, has written a letter to Portsmouth GP practices asking for their support around World AIDS Day (1 December) and beyond by continuing to help improve prevention and early interventions.

The letter asks: “We encourage you to refresh and enhance your knowledge related to tackling stigma and discrimination of HIV and contribute to improving outcomes for residents.

“In order to achieve zero new transmissions of HIV by 2030, reduce late diagnosis of HIV and reduce inequalities experienced by people living with a HIV diagnosis, we must all play our part.

“Many people don’t know that, with treatment, HIV is undetectable and therefore cannot be transmitted. This highlights the importance of testing and treatment.”

Portsmouth is an area with a high prevalence of HIV – more than 2 per 1,000 people aged 15-64 have the virus. A HIV infection can lead to AIDS if untreated.

GP practices play an important role in helping to improve prevention and early interventions by testing for HIV and encouraging safer sex practices, especially with individuals that may be at increased risk.

In areas of high prevalence, HIV testing is recommended for everyone who has not previously been diagnosed with HIV and who: registers with a new practice or is undergoing blood tests for another reason and has not had an HIV test in the previous year.

Anyone can become infected and unknowingly infect others if they do not know their HIV status.

Cllr Matthew Winnington, Cabinet Member for Community Wellbeing, Health and Care at Portsmouth City Council, said: “We know early diagnosis is key to managing HIV successfully so it’s important that our residents have easy access to testing and treatment through our healthcare services – which I’m glad to say we do.”

HIV is detectable in a finger-prick blood test. It’s recommended to get tested regularly i.e. every year or when changing sexual partners.

Residents can order free HIV and STI testing kits, as well as free condoms, from the Solent sexual health service at www.letstalkaboutit.nhs.uk. The service can also provide PrEP, a pill which can prevent HIV infection.

The service can be contacted by phone on 0300 300 2016 and in-person appointments can be booked for the sexual health clinic at St Mary’s Health Campus.

You can learn more about World Aids Day on the website.