In response to a meeting the GSL health team had with the Catalan Health Department, where we requested HIV fast test to be extended further into the community in Sitges. (At present it is only possible to obtain an HIV fast test at one pharmacy in Sitges. It cost 10€ or is fee to GSL members.) We were asked to create a questionnaire to find out if, fast tests were necessary, if the community wanted them and where would people prefer to go to obtain them.
We also asked when people had last tested and where they lived.
The questionnaire was distributed online via social media and we received responses from over a quarter of our membership. This is quite high for a questionnaire which asks some personal questions.
During the time the questionnaire was running it came to light that Sitges has far more HIV cases per capita than Barcelona, Catalunya, Spain and London. It probably has the highest incidence of HIV in Europe.
Making sure people know their HIV status is an absolute priority for community health in Sitges.
The results show that the vast majority of respondents already knew about HIV fast tests, trusted the results from them and would be happy to use them more often if they were available.
The worrying results from the respondents was that over two thirds of people had not tested for HIV in the last six months. A half of the people who had not tested in the last six months had not tested in the last year and the other half had either tested up to two years ago or never tested.
This means that two thirds of gay men in Sitges have no reliable information about their HIV status. Therefore, they could either be unknowingly transmitting HIV or unknowingly have contracted HIV.
Globally, through UNAids, there is a campaign called 90-90-90. That is where 90% or the population know their status, 90% of HIV positive people are on medication and 90% of people on medication achieve an undetectable amount of virus in their blood. A person with an undetectable viral load cannot pass HIV onto their sexual partners. U=U Undetectable equals Untransmittable .
We urgently need to get accessible HIV testing for gay men who live and play in Sitges. (Over a hundred respondent lived in or around Sitges. Thirty lived abroad but were still members of GSL )
We are working to obtain free HIV testing for everyone who needs it in Sitges, but it is up to everyone here to make sure they know their HIV status. It is essential that people test every six months if sexually active and every year for those less sexually active.
Late diagnosis is still a big health problem and even in Europe people are still dying from undiagnosed HIV and complications from late diagnosis.
In recent years there has been a complacency around HIV and sexual health as HIV treatment means that it is not a killer that it previously was. This is only however true if you know your status and get medication. People who do not know their status, people who assume they are negative are the people who are continuing to keep the numbers of people diagnosed with HIV in Sitges higher than the European average.
People who are newly infected with the virus are at most risk of transmitting the virus. They have very high levels of virus.
If you have experienced a fever, a rash and a sore throat in recent months, get tested. These are the symptoms of seroconversion. (Becoming HIV positive) not everyone who contracts the virus gets these symptoms. Therefore, the only way to tell if you have become infected is to take a fifteen minute test.
Protect yourself and protect your community in Sitges.