National HIV Testing Week is a campaign to promote regular testing in England, particularly among groups most affected by HIV, including gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (GBMSM) and heterosexuals of Black African ethnicity. Regular testing helps to reduce the number of people living with undiagnosed HIV and those diagnosed late.
Testing for HIV is quick and easy – all it takes is a finger-prick test. Testing is essential because people can live with HIV for a long time without any symptoms. Testing is the only way to know your HIV status. If you have HIV, finding out means you can start treatment, stay healthy and avoid passing the virus on to anyone else.
The HIV treatments currently available can’t get rid of HIV completely, but they work by reducing the amount of HIV in the body so that the immune system can improve. Once the HIV is undetectable in the blood it is untransmittable. This is known as U=U – i.e., ‘Undetectable = Untransmittable’.
Testing is a key part in the efforts to stop HIV.
Testing for HIV is quick, free, confidential and easy.
People can live with HIV for a long time without any symptoms, and testing is the only way to know your HIV status.
If you have HIV, finding out means you can start treatment, stay healthy and avoid passing the virus onto anyone else.
There are many ways to test – at a sexual health clinic, your GP, through HIV and sexual health charities, or by ordering a test online.
Anyone diagnosed with HIV in the UK can access free treatment and support.
Why National HIV Testing Week is important
To meet the goal of achieving zero new HIV cases in England by 2030, the Government has outlined a set of ambitious targets within the HIV Action Plan, but to achieve these there is still a lot of work to do:
Despite a partial recovery in the numbers testing for HIV in England last year, there were still 13% fewer people tested for HIV in 2022 than in 2019
In 2022, 44% of people first diagnosed in England were diagnosed late. This correlates to poorer long-term health outcomes; in those diagnosed late in England the highest mortality rates were amongst those exposed by injecting drug use, those aged 65 and over, those aged between 50 and 64 years, heterosexual men, and those living outside London.
HIV treatment coverage is high in England at 98%. To access free treatment and care people, need to test so they are aware of their HIV status. Testing for HIV is also useful for HIV-negative people, particularly for those who are considering interventions such as PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis).
HIV testing is quick, confidential and free.