Leeds City Council is marking National HIV Testing Week, as well as one year of becoming a global fast-track city, by launching a new grants programme to support communities that are living with HIV, tuberculosis, and viral hepatitis.
The fast-track initiative was signed during National HIV Testing Week 2023, bringing Leeds in line with other cities around the world as they work together to beat HIV, TB and viral hepatitis by the end of the decade. A big part of this commitment is involving the community in this work, with this now being supported through the new Leeds Fast-Track Cities community grants programme that will be overseen by Leeds City Council and other partners.
Groups in the city will be allocated grants of up to £700 to help highlight their experiences around the stigma and discrimination when it comes to HIV, TB, or viral hepatitis.
Councillor Salma Arif, Executive Member for Adult Social Care, Public Health, and Active Lifestyles at Leeds City Council, said:
“One year on from signing up to be a fast-track city, we are determined to keep making progress to help and support people to make their lives better, and at the heart of that is listening to people’s lived experiences so we want to hear from as many people and communities as possible in this new grants programme. As it is National HIV Testing week too, we encourage people to take the free testing in person or by ordering online to reduce the number of people living with undiagnosed HIV and help them get any treatment and support they may need.”
By becoming a fast-track city, Leeds has seen the benefits of a number of partners across the city coming together to develop workstreams that allow for more opportunistic testing, and engagement among the most at-risk populations in Leeds. The first anniversary of this development comes just after December’s announcement that a new £20 million National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) initiative will involve Leeds General Infirmary and St. James’ University Hospital.
That particular project will utilise a new opt-out testing programme within 46 more emergency departments across the country, that can pick up undiagnosed patients living with HIV, and Hepatitis B and C.
Sexual Health and HIV Consultant at Leeds Sexual Health and Leeds Teacher Hospitals Trust, and Chair of Fast Track Cities Leeds Dr Sarah Schoeman also commented:
“This week marks our one-year anniversary as a Fast Track City alongside national HIV testing week. We are extremely proud that as a city this means we have signed up to working towards the elimination of new HIV, viral hepatitis and TB infections and stigma related to these by 2030. During our first year as a Fast Track City, we have strengthened our partnerships locally, nationally, and internationally, and have worked to identify gaps and opportunities to develop our next actions.
“We have lots more planned for our second Fast Track City year including more access to testing, more community engagement and more anti-stigma work. We are more united and focused than ever to ensure that we achieve our 2030 goals.”
With this week being National HIV Testing Week, the council and its health partners are encouraging people to reap the benefits of free and confidential tests that are available around the city, including healthier living and stopping them from passing the virus onto other people. By testing regularly, the number of people living with undiagnosed HIV, as well as the poor health that comes alongside a late diagnosis, can be reduced.
Image credit: iStock