Carlisle Mayor promotes free HIV testing

In a bid to reduce the stigma associated with HIV the Mayor of Carlisle has shown how easy it is to get tested. The test is free and available across pharmacies in Cumbria. The Mayor, Colin Stothard attended the Dalston Pharmacy at Inglewood, Harraby, Carlisle to show his support and take the test.

He explained: “I am happy to support, promote health outcomes in Carlisle and would encourage others to do the same. The test, which took a few minutes to answer some general health questions and then a simple click to get the blood and a few minutes later the results are available. The tests are free, quick, simple, painless, discreet and completed by a pharmacist at a walk in consultation”.

Mark Stakim, Pharmacist at the Dalston Pharmacy said “This is a great opportunity for anyone with concerns to attend for a quick, free, discreet HIV test. The test is done is a consultation room and as we offer such a wide range of services in pharmacies no one will know why you are there. It is very private.

The free testing programme is part of a project called ‘In the Community’ from OutREACH Cumbria in partnership with Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (CPFT). It was awarded £66,640 to tackle HIV by providing training for community pharmacists to provide HIV testing in rural areas with high rates of late diagnosis. Any pharmacy that doesn’t currently offer this service will be able to give advice and signpost to the nearest one that does.

Ben Vollans, Manager of Outreach Cumbria, said: “Cumbria has one of the highest rates of late diagnosis in the country and we hope to improve that by giving people access to a service they would normally shy away from. These people are most at risk and are often scared off at the idea they may have to visit the local sexual health clinic and be seen. The funding has made it possible for us to offer a discrete HIV testing service within a pharmacy and we are very grateful to the Mayor for helping us raise awareness like this. The rationale for using a pharmacy is that you could be going to talk about absolutely anything so no one will know why you are there.”

The Mayors test was clear.