MARGARET Sentamu, wife of the Archbishop of York, has taken a HIV test to mark World Aids Day.
To show how simple a HIV test can be, Mrs. Sentamu took a finger prick test at the sexual health organization Yorkshire Mesmac in York and received a result within 20 minutes.
She said: "It's important to raise awareness not just for one day, but all year round of the importance of getting tested. There have been fantastic advances in medication which means people can now live a completely normal life, particularly when they get a early diagnosis. "
Mrs. Sentamu recalled the devastating impact of the virus in her home country of Uganda where both her husband and her husband lost family and friends to Aids. She said: "Understandably people may be nervous about taking a test but you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Late diagnosis can be devastating, so be brave and go forward – do not fear the test. "
While the HIV epidemic is slowing in the UK, almost half of people who test positive are finding out that they have HIV very late, meaning the virus may have damaged their health permanently.
Around 6,000 people are diagnosed with the virus in the UK every year. Latest figures reveal that late diagnosis of HIV means that people in York and North Yorkshire spend an average of three to five years living with HIV before they are diagnosed.
Dr. Ian Fairley, of the York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, explained: "HIV is a treatable condition and no longer a terminal illness. Knowing whether or not you're HIV-positive is essential so that you can access specialist HIV services and HIV treatment. "
Visit www.mesmac.co.uk for drop-in testing sessions available throughout the next week or to book a test.