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Free HIV tests made available in England

Posted on the 9th February 2023

Finger prick test

Free HIV testing kits that can be used at home are being offered to people living in England.

The government initiative is aiming to improve the diagnosis of the virus after testing plummeted during the pandemic.

Small enough to fit through a letterbox, the plain packaged kits give a result within 15 minutes using a single drop of blood from a finger prick.

A ‘reactive’ result means that HIV is possible and a further check at a clinic is required.

Anyone who is at risk of HIV is advised to test every three months because it can take a while for the virus to show in the blood.

Currently, around 4,400 people in England are living with undiagnosed HIV, and testing rates remain a fifth lower than those seen before the Covid-19 pandemic – with heterosexual men in particular testing less than in 2019.

Testing among gay and bisexual men has increased but rates of testing among women have fallen by 22 per cent compared to 2019, while there has been a 41 per cent drop for heterosexual men.

Straight men and women are also far more likely to be diagnosed at a late stage.

People can live with HIV for a long time without any symptoms and testing is the only way to confirm HIV status.

The free testing initiative coincides with National HIV Testing Week and constitutes progress t the government's goal of ending new HIV cases by 2030.

In 2022, HIV charity Positive Life warned that, while medical advances had improved the lives of people with HIV, misinformation continues to cause harm.

Jacquie Richardson, Positive Life's chief executive, also said the "biggest issue for them still remains the stigma that is associated with HIV.”

"That is very definitely a legacy from the awareness campaign that there was around in the 1980s," she added.

"People took a little thread of what they heard, and then they created it into something else and we're still dealing with the legacy of that."

Ms Richardson has called for "consistent" sexuality and relationship education to be implemented in schools in a bid to dispel myths and misinformation.

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