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 took 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.
Home testing and home sampling
From April 2014 home testing kits for HIV will be legal in the UK. This important decision will give people another testing option. Together with your help we campaigned to change the law and hope that this will help to encourage testing and reduce the number of people who remain undiagnosed.
Before the change in law we are able to offer a home sampling service and from 22 November 2013 an HIV postal service will allow people to provide a sample and return it by post to get a response.