60% of British adults never or infrequently test for HIV, new research reveals, with some respondents stating that they last tested up to 20 years ago. As a result, an estimated 40 million people are unaware of their HIV status. While the risk of exposure is generally low, it is estimated that 5% of people living with HIV in the UK haven’t been diagnosed. Knowing your HIV status has never been easier and helps keep you and your partners safe, so regular testing should be a priority.
The research, commissioned by OraSure Technologies, the manufacturer of OraQuick HIV Self-Test – the first gum swab HIV self-test for home use – uncovered a fundamental lack of understanding around HIV transmission as well as highlighting key barriers to testing, which include a lack of GP appointments, not wanting to attend a sexual health clinic, and a fear of blood and needles.
A reluctance to test was also found to be based on relationship status with respondents noting being married or in a monogamous relationship as a determining factor in choosing not to get tested.
Richard Angell, CEO of Terrence Higgins Trust, Britain’s leading HIV and sexual health charity, says: “HIV has changed – it’s easier to test than ever and the treatment is the best it has ever been. Knowing your status is the key to a happy, healthy life. If the test is negative there are new and improved strategies to stay negative, if positive, you will be treated by the best medical professionals and given life changing drugs. If you have not tested recently, or at all, order a test. If everyone knows their status, we can be the generation to end new cases of HIV in the UK, all by 2030. Play your part, order a test today.”
Despite significant medical advances over the last 40 years, the survey also discovered that many British people still hold outdated beliefs about HIV:
- 70% of Brits don’t consider themselves at risk of acquiring HIV.
- More than half (54%) don’t think that people living with HIV can lead long and healthy lives.
- 5% of Brits, the equivalent of nearly 3,500,000 people, believe if a woman is on the pill, they are protected from HIV.
Former Love Island contestant and newly qualified doctor, Priya Gopaldas, explained: “Symptoms or not, high risk or low risk, everyone should test their HIV status. Knowing your status has never been easier and should be a part of your regular health and wellness routine. If you don’t want to attend a clinic, technically advanced home tests are readily available and can provide an accurate result in as little as 20 minutes. There are even gum swab self-tests that require no blood sampling and are an effective, non-invasive, at-home option. Make sure you look for tests licensed for use in the UK to ensure efficacy.”
HIV can be much easier to manage and treat if identified early, thanks to antiretroviral therapy (ART), with studies showing that those on effective treatment who have an undetectable viral load cannot pass on HIV. At-home HIV tests can help overcome issues such as late diagnosis, with home testing providing a confidential and accessible way to know your status, offering users a sense of control and self-empowerment.
The OraQuick HIV Self-Test is the first gum swab rapid HIV test for home use and is available from Superdrug, Amazon, and independent and online pharmacies nationwide.