A regular sexual health tester has spoken out about the importance of getting tested this National HIV Testing Week.
Liam Newberry, who lives in Ormskirk, gets tested every two to three months through the NHS depending on how sexually active he has been. The 29-year-old is an advocate for everyone to know their status when it comes to STIs and HIV.
The Edge Hill University student spoke to the ECHO on behalf of Sahir House, Liverpool’s oldest LGBTQ+ charity, who are calling on the public to know their status as the virus “doesn’t discriminate against anyone”.
The second-year nursing and social work student told the ECHO:
Liam grew up in the 90s, a time when AIDS – which occurs when HIV is untreated – “was still prominent”. The virus was initially referred to as “the gay plague” and was often seen as a “death sentence” due to the lack of knowledge and medical treatment.
Liam, who is originally from Newcastle, said:
Despite medical advancements, Liam said contracting HIV among other STDs is still something which is in his head because of his upbringing.
There is still no cure for HIV today, however, people living with HIV, who are on effective antiretroviral therapy (ART), cannot pass the virus on as undetectable equals untransmittable (U=U). The virus can be treated by taking one pill a day to stop the virus from replicating, allowing the body’s immune system to repair itself.
People can also take a pill called PrEP, which prevents people from catching HIV if taken effectively, while PEP can stop you from becoming infected if you take it within 72 hours of exposure to the virus.
Liam was part of the UK PreP trials – which aimed to reduce the amount of new HIV transmissions. Lasting over five years, it aimed to recruit 26,000 participants who were at high risk of HIV infection in England.
Initially, HIV was seen as a “gay” problem but now straight people make up more new HIV diagnoses than gay people in England. Although there is still no cure for HIV, today – with early diagnosis and treatment – people living with HIV can expect to live a normal life span.
Liverpool is a “fast-track city” committed to ending all new transmissions of HIV by 2030. Over 36m people worldwide have died of HIV/AIDS-related illnesses, whereas an estimated 37m people are currently living with HIV, making it one of the most important global public health issues in recorded history. Around 106,890 people in the UK are currently living with HIV – 9,750 of whom live in the North West.
In line with HIV Testing Week, which occurs annually in February, Liam is promoting regular testing among population groups in England and fighting against outdated views on HIV.