People living with, and affected by, HIV in our borough receive a wide range of support services to help them cope with the mental, emotional and physical impacts.
Ealing HIV Support Service aims to provide those who are affected by it with a central point to find help, while building on the success in improved treatment and new prevention technologies.
The service is funded by Ealing Council and run by Living Well and Positively UK. The service provides practical advice for people living with HIV to help them manage their health and wellbeing and live life to its full potential.
You can sign up for the service yourself.
HIV diagnoses falling – but still work to do
In September, Public Health England (PHE) announced diagnoses of HIV in England had fallen to their lowest level in almost two decades during 2018. In London, the number of diagnoses per year has fallen by more than 43% in the 10 years between 2009-2018, down to 1,504. During the same period, the number of HIV-related deaths per year in the capital has also fallen – by more than 60%.
It said the continuing decline in the virus had been down to the success of preventive measures.
These include HIV testing; condoms being more available; more use of a drug taken before sex by HIV-negative people at high risk of contracting the virus; and drugs that keep the level of HIV in the body low and prevent the virus being passed on, known as anti-retroviral therapy (ART). In fact, since being introduced in 1995, effective ART treatment has transformed HIV from a previously fatal infection to a long-term condition with similarities to many others.
Meanwhile, London has also been revealed as the first city in the world to meet and surpass United Nations targets aimed at ending HIV and AIDS.
The targets aim for: 95% of people with HIV to be diagnosed; 95% of those diagnosed to be on ART treatment; and 95% of these to be ‘virally suppressed’ – having such low levels of HIV in their blood thanks to the treatment that they cannot transmit the virus to others.
In fact, London has reached rates of 95% diagnosis, 98% on therapy and 97% virally suppressed.
That said, London still has an unacceptably high rate of late diagnosis of HIV. The latest PHE data for Ealing shows that 34% of people are diagnosed at a late stage of infection. It is particularly important people are diagnosed early so they can receive prompt treatment and avoid longer-term consequences, including passing on the infection to others. People can receive testing in sexual health clinics, from their GP and other community-based and online sources. Sexual Health clinics are confidential, free and can be accessed locally, or outside of the area. London Northwest Healthcare Trust is the main local provider in Ealing
World AIDS Day is on 1 December. And there is a determination to build on these successes in London and to tackle the stigma surrounding HIV, which can act as a barrier to testing, treatment and support – at a time when people most need it.
Ealing’s new support service
Services available include counselling, life coaching, hypnotherapy, art therapy, self-management programmes, peer mentoring and wellbeing groups, peer mentoring and peer support groups. And there is also help for people to maintain or re-enter employment.
‘The biggest thing is the stigma people still face’
One Ealing woman has lived with HIV for more than 25 years and, having had counselling sessions with Living Well herself, she now volunteers to help others by sharing details of her own remarkable tale of survival and success. She said: “The danger is thinking that because mortality has decreased there is therefore less need for services to support people. It is a fallacy and it means some places there is nowhere to get help. The biggest thing is the stigma people still face – even in this day and age and even in London.”
You can read her full, dramatic story here.
For more on World AIDS Day on Sunday, 1 December visit https://www.worldaidsday.org/
Getting tested for HIV
There are several options for HIV testing. These include sexual health clinics, both locally and out of the area. London Northwest Healthcare Trust (LNWHT) is the main sexual health clinical provider in Ealing. You can also go via your GP; you can order an online kit at www.shl.uk; or you can go through LNWHT’s community partners NAZ, Spectra and the Terrence Higgins Trust, all of which provide testing in community settings.
For more details about clinics and treatment, go to www.nwlondonsexualhealth.nhs.uk and click on ‘services.’ These clinics provide testing for HIV and other STIs and also give specialist support. The HIV clinics provide HIV treatment and care to those living with HIV.