Content
Text

This National HIV Testing Week, we worked with Parliamentarians to encourage people to ‘Give HIV the finger’ and show how quick and easy it now is to test for HIV.

It was our most successful National HIV Testing Week ever and parliamentarians played a big role in that. Hot on the heels of the HIV Commission’s clear message of ‘test, test, test’ to end new cases of HIV by 2030, over 60 MPs helped give HIV the finger by doing an HIV test at home. Another 30 shared information on how to test on social media.

It has only been two months since the Government confirmed it would be using the HIV Commission’s report as the basis of the new HIV Action Plan, due to be published in 2021. A remarkable achievement made possible by working alongside our partners at National AIDS Trust and Elton John AIDS Foundation, as well as the hundreds of others who helped inform the work of the HIV Commission.

Political engagement has always been a cornerstone in the fight against HIV throughout the epidemic and those in the corridors of power must understand what needs to be done to end new cases of HIV. These are the people that will make decisions that can help England become one of the first countries in the world to reach this historic milestone.

But to get there, testing is crucial.

New polling conducted by Terrence Higgins Trust shows that 77% of UK adults have never had a HIV test. This set the scene for National HIV Testing Week and underlined the serious challenge that lay ahead to find the 6,700 people living with HIV in the UK who are undiagnosed.

Due to the ongoing covid pandemic, National HIV Testing Week was a little different this year and the usual face-to-face events we would hold with MPs had to be done online. That didn’t hold us back. Thanks to Owen Mumford who donated free HIV self-test kits for MPs to use, we had political representatives from all the major parties doing tests and encouraging their constituents to get tested.

Text

We had a packed series of events to engage the different parties and political representatives in local and regional government.

We teamed up with LGBTIQA Greens, along with our partners at National AIDS Trust, LGBT Labour and LGBT+ Conservatives, to hold events looking at how the parties can drive forward the recommendations of the HIV Commission. During all these events, politicians gave their full backing to the HIV Commission’s report and pledged to do all they can to encourage more people to get tested.

Our Chair, Jonathan McShane took part in a panel discussion alongside Labour local government representatives looking at the role councils will have in driving forward the HIV Commission recommendations. He was joined by Mayor of Lambeth and fantastic Terrence Higgins Trust supporter Philip Normal whose ‘La’ t-shirts have raised an incredible £120,000 to support people living with HIV.

Chair of the HIV/AIDS All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) Stephen Doughty MP also announced a new inquiry on HIV testing availability across the UK and why there continue to be such high levels of missed tests every year. This is very welcome and we look forward to engaging with the APPG and providing evidence.

Two Labour MPs joined our Medical Director Dr Michael Brady to do an HIV test live on camera. Shadow Cabinet Minister Luke Pollard MP and Health Select Committee member Taiwo Owatemi MP showed how quick and easy testing is.

National HIV Testing Week was also raised on the floor of the House of Commons, with the Health Secretary underlining his commitment to the 2030 goal and Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth calling out HIV stigma within healthcare services.

Text

There were also some brilliantly written pieces by several MPs in support of National HIV Testing Week, including Deputy Labour Leader Angela Rayner, Shadow Public Health Minister Alex Norris, Alicia Kearns and Bell Ribeiro-Addy.

As the week went on we could see the surge in people ordering HIV test kits via the It Starts With Me website. Every few hours, hundreds of tests were ordered from people across the country. We started to think 'could this be the biggest National HIV Testing Week we’ve ever seen?'

On Thursday we got confirmation of just that. At an event we co-organised with the Big Tent Ideas Foundation and LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor, the Minister for Public Health Jo Churchill MP told the audience that it had been a record-breaking week. So much so that Public Health England had agreed to provide an extra 10,000 free HIV test kits. The event was chaired by long-standing HIV champion and Liberal Democrat Peer Baroness Liz Barker.

Text

The week was rounded off by a thank you message from Number 10, with the Prime Minister revealing over 20,000 HIV test kits had been ordered.

Text

The It’s A Sin effect hasn’t just caught the attention of the general public, it’s being heard in our places of political power too.

This year’s National HIV Testing Week could be a seminal moment in our country’s HIV response. If we seize this opportunity to step up our political response to HIV, increase HIV testing across all settings, we can set ourselves well on course to ending the HIV epidemic within the decade.