National HIV Testing Week starts on Monday 6 February 2023. Every year this annual campaign, run by HIV Prevention England, aims to raise awareness about the importance of regular testing, to help reduce the number of people living with undiagnosed HIV and those diagnosed late. The number of people diagnosed with HIV is falling, but there is still work to do.
The UK government has set a goal of achieving zero HIV transmissions and zero HIV-related stigma by the year 2030. How can we achieve this?
Testing for HIV is quick and easy – all it takes is a finger-prick test. Testing is really important 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 onto anyone else.
Dr Ayo-ola Okunwobi-Smith, Consultant Genitourinary Medicine and HIV, said: “We can help achieve the goal of zero HIV transmission by 2030 by all of us playing our part – testing, testing, testing and being aware of our HIV status.
“The HIV treatments currently available can’t get rid of HIV completely, but work by reducing the amount of HIV in the body, so 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’.”
In this film Ayo-ola talks about the importance of everyone knowing their HIV status, and how testing and early diagnosis is key to people with HIV receiving the really effective treatment now available to help them achieve U=U.
The film also features two people who access the HIV service at Hope House talking about their experiences of living with HIV, and how early diagnosis and the ongoing treatment they receive at Hope House is helping them to live happy, healthy lives.
Free, confidential walk-in HIV testing
Our Sexual Health Service offers free HIV testing as part of its standard sexual infection screening. But in recognition of HIV Testing Week, is also offering free, anonymous, walk-in testing, with rapid results, at the following locations:
- Monday 6 February, 2-6.30pm
The Milsom Centre, 8 Milsom Street, Cheltenham GL50 4BA
- Thursday 9 February, 5-7pm
Eddystone Trust, Gloucestershire Resource Centre, Alfred Street, Gloucester GL1 4DF
Test, Treat, Protect…
Test: It’s a good idea to test at least once a year or following the end of a relationship. Test negative and end worries and doubt. Test positive and you can enjoy a long, healthy life – by testing early and starting treatment in time.
Treat: The sooner someone with HIV starts treatment, the better it is for their health. Treatment can also reduce the amount of HIV in the body to levels at which HIV cannot be passed on.
Protect: Most new infections come from unprotected sex with someone who doesn’t know they have HIV – so aren’t on medication and aren’t undetectable. So we all need to look after ourselves.
Home testing kits
People can also test at home using HIV postal and self-test kits. To find out more, and for further information about the HIV Service, visit the Hope House website>