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HIV Awareness

Posted on the 15th December 2014

The Girls Activity Project (GAP), a youth group based at Mill Hill in Blackburn with Darwen, have won a competition held by Lancashire’s Contraception and Sexual Health Service after creating a display to highlight the importance of HIV awareness and safe sex.

Staff from the Contraception and Sexual Health team (CaSH) have been working with organisations including local schools and colleges to promote of the importance of positive sexual health and safe sex practice. There are around 100,000 people living with HIV in the UK and around 34 million people globally. More than 35 million people have died from the virus making it one of the most destructive pandemics in history. Over a quarter of people are unaware they have HIV and the team have been raising awareness of the importance of getting tested.

The team held a competition for schools, colleges and community groups to see who could put together an eye catching and informative display about the importance of safe sex and linking in with World AIDS Day activities.

Christine Goodman, Community Sexual Health Development Lead at Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust said:

“Our teams work with organisations, providing services such as educational workshops and specialist support including signposting. This year we held a competition to see who could put together the best display raising awareness of the issues of the day. We are pleased to say we had 12 brilliant entries; however the one that stood out was from G.A.P (Girls Activity Project) at Mill Hill. Their display used a variety of information and art materials to produce a display which highlights the messages about HIV and AIDS and how to stay safe. Thank you to everyone who got involved and helped share the important messages!”

Charlie Alston Level 3 Youth Worker from the G.A.P at Mill Hill said:

“I think it’s really important as a group we take part in events such as this as they are such a good way of having fun while also learning about HIV and AIDS. The competition encouraged the girls to have a greater understanding and awareness about HIV and they really enjoyed getting involved. It’s a great way of getting the positive messages out to young people and the wider public, and to win the competition was the icing on the cake.”

The competition was held to support work around World AIDS day which takes place every year on 1 December and is led by the National AIDS Trust. Christine explains:

“World AIDS Day is extremely important in raising awareness of the importance of safe sex practices and regular testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV. There are around 6,000 people diagnosed with HIV every year, and it is important we remove the stigma surrounding HIV and people feel comfortable in discussing safe sex practices. We are pleased that over the last few years, HIV testing in East Lancashire has dramatically increased and people are taking responsibility for their health and seeking out testing.”

The most common method of new cases of HIV occur as a result of unprotected sex. Research shows that between 70 and 90% of people may show symptoms of contracting HIV within the first four weeks after exposure. These symptoms include fever, rash and a severe sore throat, which may disappear within two to three week however some people may not experience any symptoms at all. It is important that people who may have had unprotected sex and experience any symptoms visit their local sexual health clinic for testing. There are other ways in which HIV can be contracted, such as sharing needles, and so it is important that for tattoos and piercings, people should make sure all equipment is thoroughly sterilised, and needles used for injecting drug paraphernalia should never be shared.

You can find more information about World AIDS Day and facts about HIV by visiting www.worldaidsday.org. For information about your local sexual health clinics please visit www.cashlancashirecare.nhs.uk