Breaking the Chain: Time to test campaign

posted by: abbey

Covid-19 presents a once-in-a-generation opportunity in the fight against HIV and syphilis. Since the
introduction of social distancing measures in March, most people have not been having sex outside their
household, which means much fewer people have been exposed to HIV and syphilis.

What is the Breaking the Chain: Time to test campaign?

The Break the Chain: Time to test campaign, founded by 56 Dean Street (Chelsea and Westminster
Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust), seeks to maximise the current social distancing situation to identify
everyone who has undiagnosed HIV so that they can start treatment early, improve their health, and
prevent them from passing on HIV to anyone else.

Now is the time: we have an unprecedented opportunity to stop HIV transmissions

When someone first catches HIV, they are highly infectious and more likely to pass on HIV than normal.
However, HIV infections take between 4-8 weeks before they can be identified through testing. With
lockdown having started in March, there are many fewer people in this ‘blindspot’ who would otherwise
be missed, and testing now could identify almost everyone who has the virus.

If those who test positive start effective treatment straight away, the virus will become undetectable and
they can’t pass it on to anyone else.

If you believe yourself to be at risk of HIV and want to help break the chain, you can order a test from: Freetesting HIV. You will also be offered the option to test for syphilis.

If you would like to talk to someone about HIV and risk, you can call the clinic to speak to a nurse adviser.

HIV is considered a long term manageable condition with normal life expectancy, if diagnosed early. People living with HIV that are on effective treatment are unable to pass it on to their sexual partner(s). If you are HIV negative and at ongoing risk of infection, you can read about PrEP here. PrEP is one tablet, once a day which is highly effective in preventing HIV transmission.

For more information about HIV please click here

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Accessing our service during the COVID pandemic

How to access our service:

We have now implemented a telephone triage system for all of our clinics. This system will be in place for the duration of the pandemic. Please contact our services to access this triage system. Our central telephone number is 0300 303 3989.

If you are experiencing symptoms of Coronavirus please do not attend the clinic. Clear advice for people with symptoms of coronavirus is available at nhs.uk/coronavirus .

Advice from our service:

We have updated information on the provision of routine contraception during this pandemic here.

We are currently prioritising these groups for coil and implant (LARC) fits:

  • Those with vulnerabilities including but not limited to those who are: <18, attending abortion and maternity services, homeless, sex workers, victims of sexual assault, people with language barriers, drug and alcohol problems, learning disability, serious mental illness
  • Those aged <30 years

More details on LARC fittings at our service are found here

There is also specific advice on coronavirus available for People Living with HIV here, and for pregnant women here

Self-requested Sexual Health screening by post is available for for under 25s only - more info here

For others with testing requirements please contact the service on 0300 303 3989.

Information is now also available to advise on sexual contact during a time of social distancing here.

Alternative provision:

Please be aware that we may have to cancel, rearrange or shut clinical services in response to changing clinical and staffing pressures created by the Coronavirus pandemic. 

If you are struggling to access sexual health services, alternatives may be available:

  • Emergency Contraception - at your local pharmacy - more info
  • Contraceptive pills and LARC procedures - obtained from your GP
  • HIV postal testing - available to at-risk groups for a small fee -  more info
  • HIV PEPSE - available via A+E departments - more info
  • Condoms by post (for gay and bisexual men only) - more info