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Support for those at risk from HIV

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hiv-curtHYWEL DDA UNIVERSITY HEALTH BOARD’S Blood-borne Virus (BBV) Nursing Service is marking World AIDS Day on Monday December 1. Marked on the same date every year since 1988, World AIDS Day provides an opportunity to draw attention to the HIV epidemic around the world and many people recognise the red ribbon and wear it to show their support for people living with HIV. Currently there are almost 100,000 people in the UK living with HIV and over 35 million people worldwide.

This year’s theme for World AIDS Day is ‘Getting to Zero’ meaning the aim is to get to zero new infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS related deaths. Janice Rees, Lead Blood-borne Virus Specialist Nurse for Hywel Dda University Health Board has been caring for patients in the area with HIV and other blood-borne viruses since 1995. Janice said: “I have seen huge changes in the field of HIV since I first came into post.

Initially we had no treatments and being told you were HIV positive was like being given a death sentence. My role involved caring for people, very often young people, at the end of their life. With the advent of treatments, people diagnosed with HIV can now live a perfectly normal life, even having their own children safely and with minimal risk of transmission, which 20 years ago was something I never dreamt I would see.”

HIV is transmitted in the following ways: By having unprotected sex with someone who is infected, so always use a condom. They can be obtained free from sexual health clinics and the Blood-borne Virus nurses By getting infected blood into your blood stream. This may be through sharing any injecting equipment; sharing snorting equipment; having tattoos or piercings done in unhygienic conditions or by infected blood getting into open wounds. NEVER share any injecting equipment including filters, spoons, water.

Needle exchange is available throughout the counties and pharmacies taking part can be identified by the yellow and green arrow on their door. When having piercings and tattoos make sure that sterile equipment is opened in front of you and in the case of tattoos make sure a sterile ink pot is used and not a ‘communal’ inkpot. If in doubt – don’t have it done! Mothers can transmit the virus to the babies – but with treatments now available, this can be prevented.

Unfortunately, there is still a lot of stigma surrounding HIV. Ms Rees continued: “When I give someone a positive HIV diagnosis, I can reassure them that medically they will be fine, live a normal life and be well. However, the hardest part for someone newly diagnosed is how other people react. Most of the people living with HIV in the Hywel Dda catchment area have fantastic support from partners, parents, family and close friends.

However, most are petrified of neighbours and others finding out their status and reacting badly, not just towards them but their loved ones as well. Sadly a small number have been ostracised in their community and in a couple of cases felt forced to move away.” The zero discrimination message seeks to stamp out this discrimination. The Equality Act offers legal protection in areas such as employment, housing and education but sadly does not offer protection against social discrimination. If anyone thinks they may have been at risk of contracting HIV, tests (including a full sexual health check up) can be undertaken at your local sexual health clinic – for Hywel Dda call 01267 248674 between 9.30 and 4.30 Monday to Friday.

The Blood-borne Virus Nursing service also offer free confidential testing, call Janice Rees on 01437 773125 / 07899915835 for Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion or Nicola Reeve for Carmarthenshire on 01554 783 535 / 07977 486665. The nurses can also be contacted if you want any advice or have any questions about HIV. They are also able to give educational talks to any agencies, community groups, care homes etc who would like to know more about HIV and the other bloodborne viruses.

Ms Rees concluded: “One of my patients recently said to me that she longs for the day when disclosing her HIV status would be like disclosing she had diabetes, where people would be more sympathetic rather than fearful of her. I really hope that this World AIDS day everyone will think carefully and help us to stamp out discrimination.”

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Community

Ceredigion lifesavers go the extra mile during lockdown

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Loyal blood donors in Ceredigion have responded to a request from the Welsh
Blood Service to ‘donate differently’ by rolling up their sleeves to make a
lifesaving donation at one of the Service’s new regional hubs.

Across Wales, of the 6,808 individuals that visited a Welsh Blood Service donation
session in May 63% of donors attended a clinic that was not their usual donation
venue.

In Ceredigion, 293 donors came forward to give blood in May, with 34 attending a
donation session for the very first time.

Following a series of Covid-19 related venue cancellations and social distancing
restrictions, the Welsh Blood Service was unable to host donation sessions at the thirty
community venues it would typically visit across Wales each week.

The Service introduced a new collections schedule at the beginning of April which saw
collections taken from five regional donation hubs at different locations in Wales each
week. Donors were asked to travel to donate at their nearest hub.

Alan Prosser, Director of the Welsh Blood Service, said: “When it became clear we
couldn’t continue with business as usual, we knew we’d have to ask donors to donate
differently. Our regional donation hubs have replaced our usual local collections
programme and the response from donors has been remarkable.

“98.3% of the appointments we’ve made available since lockdown have been taken
and many of these appointments have been taken by donors who have been prepared
to go even further out of their way than they usually would just to make a potentially
lifesaving donation.”

The Service has also observed a sharp rise in the number of new donors coming
forward to donate.

Mr Prosser continued: “In May 2019, around 11% of those that attended our donation
sessions were new donors. This May, around 19% of our attendance has been people
who had never given before.

“We’ve also see a surge in the number of donors who haven’t given in years returning
to our sessions to help us boost stocks. It’s been amazing and we’re hugely grateful.”

Blood stocks in Wales have remained healthy throughout the pandemic as the reduced
collections activity has mirrored a reduction in the volume of blood used by hospitals.
However, the Service is urging donors to continue to attend their local sessions as and
when lockdown restrictions are lifted.

“Blood stocks are currently very healthy thanks to the commitment of new and existing
donors but we need people to keep giving blood to ensure we can continue to meet
hospital demand in the coming months. Travel to donate is considered essential travel
and anyone who is fit, well and eligible to donate can book an appointment through the
welshblood.org.uk website.”

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Community

Porth Cymorth Cynnar supporting residents in Ceredigion

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During this challenging period, Porth Cymorth Cynnar has established a virtual platform to ensure that we are able to keep in touch with vulnerable residents across Ceredigion.

Due to the restrictions introduced to safeguard our communities against COVID-19, many residents are not able to access their usual provision or support such as parent groups or GP Referral Exercise Classes. Instead, we are ensuring that all residents whom are known to our services, and others, are kept in touch with, through regular welfare calls, should they wish.

Around 2000 residents from young people to families to carers, who may require or benefit from regular contact whilst their service is not operating in its usual form, will receive communication from our staff.

To date, almost 2000 welfare calls have been made, and have been well received by people across Ceredigion. Residents have said that it is great that someone is keeping in touch with them, to give them an opportunity to have a weekly phone call and someone to talk to.

Mrs Jones* (name changed for anonymity) who is 92 and lives alone, is used to receiving regular visits from Ceredigion’s mobile library was identified as benefiting from a weekly phone call, to check how she was doing, now that her usual library service would not be visiting for a while. Porth Cymorth Cynnar aimed to get in touch with Mrs Jones, but did not have a contact number. After tracking down a contact number through the local directory, a member of the Porth y Gymuned team was able to make contact. Luckily Mrs Jones has the support of family and neighbours to collect groceries, but nonetheless was extremely grateful to have someone to talk to, and to check that she is OK. A weekly phone check in has been organised with Mrs Jones, to ensure that she is doing well and to organise if she is in need of anything.

If you, or anyone you know would benefit from the Keeping in Touch Service, please get in touch with our Customer Services team on 01545 570881 or clic@ceredigion.gov.uk who will triage your query to Porth Cymorth Cynnar.

Porth Cymorth Cynnar are also regularly updating resource lists which are available on the Ceredigion County Council website here: http://www.ceredigion.gov.uk/coronavirus

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Community

The latest on plastic free Ceredigion

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At its meeting held on 17 March, the Council’s Cabinet received an activity update from the Plastic Free Ceredigion Task and Finish Group, which was set up after full Council approved a motion on 22 February 2018.

Full Council approved the ‘Plastic Free campaigns throughout the County, including Plastic Free Aberporth and Plastic Free Aberystwyth’ motion to ensure that the Council helps to reduce the amount of single use plastics used in our day to day operations.

The motion involved a number of factors including; reducing single-use plastics within Council facilities and offices and encouraging local businesses, organisations, schools and communities to move away from single-use plastics and use sustainable alternatives. Promoting the use of sustainable alternatives to single-use plastics at all Council supported events, supporting beach cleans and any other events which aim to raise awareness of the issues of single-use plastics.

Since 22 February 2018, the Council have removed 5 single-use plastic that were used across the local authority, implemented projects in conjunction with NRW with local primary schools, worked closely with communities throughout Ceredigion and commenced the provision of Water bottle re-fills on request to all visitors to our public facing buildings.

In January 2020, the Schools Service were successful in bidding for funding from the Circular Economy Capital Fund, which allows for the purchasing of milk dispensers which will remove the need for the provision of plastic milk bottles and straws by 1,979 pupils at Foundation and Key Stage 2. This is equivalent to a reduction of 376,010 plastic milk bottles per school year.

Councillor Alun Williams, Member Champion for Sustainability said, “These are initiatives which, together, make a real difference to the amount of single-use plastics going into the waste stream from Council activities. Whilst it’s important that everyone seeks to minimise their use of single-use plastics, it’s particularly important that large organisations like councils take these kinds of actions because they can have a wider effect which, in turn, can lead to industry changing to more sustainable practices. Ceredigion Council is trying to lead the way in showing what’s possible within an organisation.”

This supports one of the Council’s corporate priority of Promoting Environmental and Community Resilience.

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