More testing can help to stop the spread of HIV, improve health outcomes for people living with HIV and save the Government money.
Too many people with HIV don’t know they have it
One in four people living with HIV in the UK is undiagnosed. People who are undiagnosed are statistically far more likely to pass the virus on to others. Once a person knows that they have HIV they are in a better position to take steps to prevent passing it on. They can also take HIV treatment which dramatically reduces the levels of HIV in the body, meaning that the risk of transmission can be reduced to almost zero in most cases.
Too many people with HIV are diagnosed late
Over half of people with HIV in the UK are diagnosed late, after their they should have started treatment. This means that their immune system was already significantly damaged by the time they were tested. Many people will have had recent contact with their GP or another healthcare professional but will not have been recommended to test.
The longer someone with HIV goes undiagnosed, the more likely it is that they’ll become ill and need more complex and expensive treatment. On average, the cost of treating HIV is two-and-a-half times higher for someone who is diagnosed late than for someone who is diagnosed early. In the worst cases, some people are still needlessly dying.
HIV tests should be offered more often
We want there to be more HIV testing in GP surgeries, hospitals and community settings. Trials have shown this can successfully improve HIV diagnosis. HIV is most common in certain areas like London and other major cities and particularly among gay men and black Africans. These communities particularly need to be offered more routine HIV tests when appropriate.
In 2013, local authorities will take over responsibility for HIV testing from the NHS. Late diagnosis of HIV has been identified by the Government as a key outcome indicator against which local authorities’ performance can be measured. They must show leadership and work with healthcare professionals to come up with plans to make a success of HIV diagnosis.
People should be able to test themselves at home
Home testing kits for HIV are currently illegal, even though evidence shows they would help to increase testing. Meanwhile people can buy illegal kits online from overseas, but they are often of poor quality and lack vital information and advice, including on what to do in the event of a positive result.
We want HIV home testing kits to be legalised so that they can be regulated and people can test safely and securely in their own home if they want to.
Read our full policy on HIV home testing.