With National HIV Testing Week starting on Saturday 16 November, it’s time to ask ourselves that all-important question: When was the last time I got tested?
The Midlands and the East of England region have the country’s second highest proportion (23%) of new HIV diagnoses, after London. In addition to this, gay and bisexual men accounted for 50% of all those diagnosed in 2018, according to Public Health England.
After seeing these stats, we’re sure you don’t need us to tell you why it’s important to get tested!
The sooner you get tested, the better. Late diagnosis means that you've tested positive for HIV after the virus has already started to damage your immune system.
Finding out about a HIV-positive status allows you to start treatment and stop any irreversible damage to your health. So if you do only one thing this month, make sure it’s to go and get tested.
When should I test for HIV?
There’s no direct answer to this question. Getting tested should be seen as something we all do to ensure we maintain good sexual health. You can live a long, healthy life with HIV - but first you’ve got to know your status.
It’s recommended that gay and bi men get tested routinely for HIV and other STIs at least annually - or every three months if having sex without condoms with new or casual partners.
Why should I get tested?
It’s important to get tested for HIV regularly, as testing is the only way to know for sure if you have the virus. A majority of people who pass on HIV don’t know that they have it.
If you do have the virus, finding out means that you can start treatment, stay healthy and avoid passing it on to anybody else. People who are diagnosed early and access effective treatment can go on to live long and healthy lives.
Where can I go to get tested?
To find out where to test near you, or to order a free self-testing kit so that you can do it yourself at home, visit startswithme.org.uk.
How can I get tested?
Gone are the days when the only way you could get tested was by booking an appointment at your local GP surgery. There are now more ways than ever to test for HIV. With walk-in clinics, test kits and community testing available, you’re sure to find the way that works best for you.
Test kits are fairly new, so some people still don’t really understand how they work. Here’s a little breakdown:
Postal testing kits involve you taking a sample yourself and sending it off to a lab, which will then contact you with your result.
Self-testing kits give you the results within a few minutes, without you having to send anything off.
National HIV Testing Week is coordinated by Terrence Higgins Trust on behalf of Public Health England. For more information about where to test and how to go about seeking support, go to: startswithme.org.uk.
To keep up to date with National HIV Testing Week, follow @startswith_me and @THTorguk on social media.
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