A WOMAN living with HIV has called on people across Oxfordshire to get themselves tested for the disease.
Oxford resident “Mercy”, 40, who was diagnosed in 2004 after seeking treatment for abdominal pain.
The mum-of-three, who wished to remain anonymous, has spoken out for national HIV testing week.
She said: “It was devastating, it was like it was the end of my life and initially I couldn’t believe it.”
Her condition ultimately led to the breakdown in her marriage.
But with her HIV under control with three tablets a day, she said she was grateful she found out when she did.
She said: “It’s no longer the death sentence it was.
“It’s very important to go for the test because you know more about yourself and you are able to take care of yourself.
“If I hadn’t known I would have exposed my ex-husband to HIV.
“You can’t take care of something you don’t know about.
“It will save more people from being affected and it will ultimately safe lives.”
National HIV testing week start ed yesterday and runs until Thursday.
The Oxford GUM Medicine Clinic based at the Churchill Hospital is calling for people who may be at risk to get themselves tested.
Consultant Dr Jackie Sherrard said there were 499 people they were aware of living with HIV in Oxfordshire.
If diagnosed early enough, the majority of victims have the same life expectancy as those without the condition.
Dr Sherrard said: “There are more people living with HIV year- on-year because treatment is keeping people alive and well.
“If they get diagnosed later where the immune systems are quite damaged, it is more complicated and more serious.”
The clinic is particularly keen to see people who are most at risk, including men who have sex with men and those sexually active in countries where HIV is common.
SIMPLE AND QUICK
Testing is done via a blood sample, with results back within a few days.
Those deemed higher risk may be offered a pinprick rapid HIV test, with results coming back much faster.
Specialist nurse practitioner Nellia Sande said: “I don’t think there’s anything to lose getting tested.
“We are a very friendly bunch and we try and make it as comfortable as possible for the patient.”
Drop-in clinics are held at the Churchill from 12.15pm to 3.15pm Monday to Friday and at the Orchard Health Centre, Banbury, on Mondays and Fridays from 9.15am to 12.15pm.
To find out more, visit sexualhealthoxfordshire.nhs.uk