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In light of the AIDS Impact Conference in Cape Town, BioSURE positions itself as the easiest and only regulated HIV Self-Test on the South African market.
Dr Michael Evangeli from the Department of Psychology at Royal Holloway, University of London, spoke at AIDS Impact, an international conference on HIV and AIDS, in Cape Town on 15th November. He presented several findings from a study into the pre- and post-test experiences of people who test HIV-positive from an HIV self-test.

Harry
The presentation at the meeting coincides with the launch of National HIV Testing Week, which Terrence Higgins Trust are marking by opening a pop-up self-test HIV shop in Hackney. Prince Harry is a passionate advocate for HIV testing and attended the opening of the pop-up shop and acted as shopkeeper, handing out BioSURE tests.
“So the instructions are idiot-proof, for people like myself?” asked Harry when presented with the BioSURE test. It’s well-recognised as the easiest self-test to perform.
Available legally in the UK since April 2014, HIV self-testing kits enable an HIV test to be performed by an individual without professional support, usually at home. Their availability may overcome some barriers to HIV testing such as inconvenience and concerns about confidentiality, helping to address the large numbers of people who are infected with HIV but don’t know they are.
“At BioSURE, we have used our innovative HIV Self-Test as a significant tool in normalising the conversation about HIV and testing generally. Self-testing allows people to take responsibility and ownership of their HIV status. We wouldn’t dream of telling people with whom, how or when they choose to have sex and yet, until now, they have been separated from knowing their own status by a healthcare professional. Self-testing is just another testing option for those it suits and BioSURE HIV Self-Test is simple, convenient and discreet,” explains Brigette Bard, BioSURE founder and CEO. “We passionately believe that self-testing can help to reduce HIV infection rates.”
Terrence Higgins Trust, the UK’s leading HIV and sexual health charity, designed and delivered a pilot study between June and August 2016, providing free blood self-testing kits for target populations of men who have sex with men and Black African men and women. They used online advertising on Facebook, Twitter, dating apps and the THT website. The study whose findings are being presented in Cape Town, involved interviews with HIV-positive men who have sex with men.
Results from the interviews revealed that participants were positive about having tested at home and knowing their HIV status. They all reported previous negative experiences of testing in clinics in the past, for example, feeling judged. Participants experienced apprehension and anxiety about taking the test, even though all had been tested for HIV before.
All participants took the self-test alone, at home, although they would now give advice to others who thought they might be HIV-positive not to test alone. Participants reported attending a clinic for confirmatory testing within hours although some were frustrated that healthcare professionals did not know about self-testing.
Conclusions drawn from the evaluation at Royal Holloway show that there are real benefits to having the option to test at home but there’s a need for further education and training on self-testing for clinics and GPs.

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Depression is the most common psychiatric illness worldwide, with the average person having a lifetime risk of about 10% of having a depressive episode (1). It is also one of the most underdiagnosed psychiatric conditions, especially in men.
However, research has shown that people with HIV have a much higher risk of developing depression, about 2-3 times higher (2), with some studies showing rates higher than 50% (3), of people who have HIV also having depression.Anovalogos
So what does this mean for you? If you have HIV you stand a greater risk for developing depression due to a number of factors. However, depression is treatable, and so the sooner you recognise the symptoms, the sooner you can get help.
So what are the symptoms of depression? Depression is more than just a low mood, or feeling sad. It effects just about every aspect of our lives, and that’s why its so important to get treated if you do have depression. Below is a list of symptoms that may indicate depression. Some of these you may not have even noticed in yourself, but may have been pointed out by a friend or co-worker.

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By Bruce J. Little

Not sure if it’s me getting older and more set in my ways, or just wishful thinking, but I am finding it so much easier to be single this time around. I know, I know… When someone goes on about how “happy” they are to be single, it’s usually a case of trying to convince others to try and convince yourself. But this time it really isn’t all that bad! In fact, it has its awesome moments. It only took me five minutes back on the “Grind” as a new singleton to see how many people in open relationships there are in Jozi alone. Plench! And I’ve come to realise that relationships and how we define them are rapidly mutating and changing to meet our needs. It’s exciting to think that I can define the boundaries of my next relationship to suit my needs as well as those of my partner. We won’t have to conform to anybody else’s standards. But I’m in no rush for that to happen because my current singular status has its benefits. Don’t get me wrong, I loved being someone’s boyfriend. I loved the nesting and cuddling and Netflix and chilling, but I’m also really enjoying being able to watch whatever I feel like watching now. I have a lot of freedom at the moment and can do whatever I feel like whenever I feel like doing it, and it’s quite rad. Being a considerate person, I find myself regularly considering the person I am in a relationship with. But at present I can be selfish and consider myself. I’m taking it easy and it’s great. I’m taking care of myself, working on improving and building myself up. I’m giving myself TLC and I’ve come to realise that it’s something that I do very well. I’ve always known that I have a lot of love to give, and now I’m enjoying reflecting some of that good stuff back at myself.Leathercouch

There are so many options open to me. I can go on dates, or I can stay at home in my PJs watching series and eating almond butter out of the jar, if that’s what I want to do. Because I like to keep having options, I always ensure that I have condoms and water-based lube somewhere on hand or in my car’s cubbyhole, just in case “summin summin” should come up. I also make sure I replace them regularly and don’t let them expire. I’m not really big on one-night-stands anymore. I can be as frigid as a Friar or represent the “hoe is life” philosophy and embrace “Hoeism” if taken by the spirit at a later stage, and what’s more? I can change these states of mind from day to day as it suits me.

If I eventually do start to lean more towards the “Hoeism” side of the spectrum I could also consider the possibility of going on PrEP. I have choices. I have a lot of power to decide these things for myself and it feels good being able to exercise these choices. No man is an island, but at this stage of my journey I am finding that being just one is a load of fun.

Bruce J. Little is a contributing writer for Anova Health Institute. These are his views, which may or may not reflect those of Anova and its affiliates.

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By Bruce J. Little

 

Having shingles is no joke. It’s caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox, and even if you’ve already had chickenpox, it doesn’t mean you’re safe from ever getting shingles.

Once you’ve had chickenpox the virus stays in your body forever and if you are elderly, your immune system becomes weak, or you get very stressed, the virus can get reactivated, which can cause a case of shingles. Luckily, it’s easy to treat, and you can get treated for shingles at a Health4Men Clinic near you, for free.

What is shingles? At first, it appears as a rash on an area of your skin. It can appear as a patch or a band around one section of your body, but it doesn’t appear all over the body as chickenpox does. It rarely crosses the mid-line of the body i.e. the blisters occur on one side or the other but not both The rash gradually becomes a series of red blisters and these eventually dry out and then flake off. Shingles can be very painful and can also be accompanied by itching, tingling, headaches and swollen glands under the arms and around the throat. Some people also develop sores on their genitals. You should go to your nearest doctor or clinic if you have any of these symptoms.Shingles

If you have a weak immune system or you are HIV-positive and are not receiving ARV treatment, you may be more vulnerable to reactivation of the chickenpox virus,which causes shingles.

You can get shingles if your immune system is weak and you are exposed to someone who has the chickenpox or shingles virus. When someone has a shingles skin rash, especially if blisters are present, then that person is very contagious to anyone who has never had shingles or chickenpox before. The fluid in the blisters contains a large amount of chickenpox virus which is transmittable.

Most cases of shingles go away by themselves after about three weeks, but pain medication and antiviral medication can help to speed up the healing process and make it a lot less painful. Proper treatment also lowers the risk of residual pain which sometimes occurs even after the rash has healed.

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Isolation and loneliness are hazardous to your health. Studies show that depression caused by feelings of alienation and isolation can be as harmful to your health as obesity, or chugging half a pack of cigarettes a day!

Health4Men is currently running a campaign encouraging men who have sex with men to go and get tested for HIV with a close friend, for support. It’s based on the premise that we are braver when we do things together. But this is not just a great strategy for how to deal with the anxiety you may have about your HIV status; it’s also a good strategy when it comes to your mental health too. Here are a few points to ponder that will help you to reach out and connect with someone if you need to, for your good mental health:NoBullies

• Everybody hurts some times. Feeling lonely is very common, and almost everyone will experience it from time to time. Things happen in our childhood that makes us feel abandoned for some or other reason, and then, when we get older, something random can trigger a memory of this feeling of abandonment, and so we become overwhelmed with a feeling of isolation or aloneness. It’s important to remember at these times that loneliness is often just a feeling and not a fact. You may feel lonely, but in truth, there are probably many people who would love the opportunity to connect with you, given the opportunity.

• Connecting with other people is the best way to deal with stress, anxiety and depression. The reason that group therapy has such a great success rate is that we all respond much better to treatment or challenges when we feel that we are “all in this together”. Being part of a collective reminds us that we are in fact not alone, which is something that depression and reclusive behaviour can allow us to start to believe is true. Joining a yoga group or a hiking society can make a world of difference to your outlook on life.

• Get over yourself. Obsessing over your life and how you feel about it can actually aggravate feelings of alienation and despair. Try to focus on others for a while and see things from their perspective. You may become inspired by how bravely other people are battling their fears and personal demons. Compassion is a strange thing, when we have compassion for others, it causes others to start treating us in a similar way, and nothing can connect two souls better than cars of compassion running on a two-way street. Kindness is the same. Relationships and marriages that work for many years have been founded on good habits of treating one another with kindness.

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