Many people still have a very outdated and inaccurate understanding of HIV and how it’s transmitted. Terrence Higgins Trust, Britain’s leading HIV and sexual health charity recently did a poll with YouGov which revealed that:
3 in 10 LGBT people would ‘swipe left’ on a dating app to reject someone who has HIV and is on effective treatment. Even though it has been scientifically proven that people with HIV on effective treatment can’t pass it on.
Stats like this reveal that HIV stigma not only still exists, but can prevent people from getting tested.
It’s important for everyone to enjoy good sexual health. This includes getting regular STI and HIV tests. Regular testing is the best way to ensure you know your status.
When to get tested?
You should seek medical advice immediately if you think there’s a chance you could have contracted HIV. The earlier it’s diagnosed, the earlier you can start treatment. People living with HIV on effective treatment are expected to live as long and healthy life as anybody else.
Testing at least once a year for HIV and STIs is good sexual health practice for those who are sexually active, even if you don’t believe you’ve put yourself at risk of infection. However, dependent on your number of sexual partners, you may want to consider getting tested more regularly.
How to get tested?
The NHS provides HIV testing to anyone free of charge. Many clinics can give you the result on the same day. You can find your local HIV testing services on the NHS website here.
Some HIV tests may need to be repeated 1-3 months after exposure to HIV infection.
Alternatively, you can also choose to do a home HIV test kit which includes two options:
- Self test kits
Which you take yourself and see the result within a few minutes.
- Postal test kits
Where you take a sample yourself and send it off to a lab, who will then contact you with your result.
You can pay to order a test online, from companies including BioSure.
If you think you’ve been exposed to HIV, your GP or sexual health professional might suggest you take an anti-HIV medication called post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) that may stop you becoming infected if taken within 72 hours of being exposed to the virus.
Why it’s important to get tested?
If your test comes back positive, finding out earlier means that you can start HIV treatment that will allow you to continue living a healthy life.
It’s also important to get tested as soon as possible to ensure that you don’t pass the virus on to your sexual partners.
Medical research has proven that people on effective HIV treatment can be expected to live a normal lifespan and can’t pass on the virus to others.
The PARTNER study examined 58,000 instances of sex between an HIV positive person on effective treatment and a partner without HIV, and there were zero cases of HIV transmission. Most people are unaware of this, and many still don’t believe it when it’s explained.
According to Public Health England: One in seven gay and bisexual men living with HIV in the UK were black, Asian, or other minority ethnic (BAME) groups. Currently, men who have sex with men and black African men and women are the groups most at risk.
To tackle this Terrence Higgins Trust are offering FREE HIV self test kits to both groups. You can claim your free HIV self test here.
We all have the right to enjoy good sexual health free from stigma, which is why it’s important for everyone, not just those more at risk to get tested regularly.
For support, advice and information check out the Terrence Higgins Trust website or contact their direct helpline on 0808 802 1221.