November 20th-27th is European Testing Week. This year, for the first time, testing week has expanded to include hepatitis and is now named European HIV-Hepatitis Testing Week.
On the 14th of October Cilla Black was reincarnated as an HIV+ gay man. Blind Date is back, and it’s brilliant. The old format remains: three contestants compete for the affections of one lucky questioner – but in this version, the questioner is a gender- queer boy named Tom, and the contestants are all living with HIV or Hep C.
The brainchild of ACT UP (Aids Coalition To Unleash Power), HIV Blind Date set out to celebrate the people living with HIV and Hep C, whilst exposing the devastating erasure of the services they need. More people than ever before are living with HIV in the UK, but, nonsensically, this government has cut HIV support, prevention, and education by 50 per cent. Hep C services are in a similar state of crisis: it is estimated that over 216,000 people live with Hep C in the UK, but a range of new drugs with cure rates of over 95 per cent remain unavailable on the NHS, except in cases of cirrhosis; this means that patients are made to wait until they have life-threatening liver damage before they are allowed access to a cure. Following final recommendations made by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) last month, doctors will soon be legally bound to prescribe these new drugs to almost all patients – the ongoing problem, however, is that the NHS has failed to allocate enough money to provide treatment for everyone who needs it, and so people living with Hep C will continue to face unequal access to medication.