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When Was Your Last HIV Test?

There are about 18,000 people living with HIV in the UK who are not aware that they are infected. When was your last HIV test?

National HIV Testing Week 2015 kicked off on 21 November to encourage people to get an HIV test and open up the discussion about testing. Thousands of people, including celebrities and community champions, across England are expected to take part and hopefully you will play your part too.

NHTW_!5

‘But HIV affects everyone, not just black Africans.’

People have been asking why there is a focus on people from black African communities, when HIV obviously affects people from other communities as well. This is something that you might have discussed, maybe it has only just come to your attention or perhaps you have been feeling secretly angry about it.

It is important that we reflect on why there is a special focus on people from African communities. We have created the infographic below to explain how HIV disproportionately affects black African people in the UK based on statistics from 2014.

african_HIV_UK_statistics_november2015

As you can see it is really important that we get the message about HIV out to the people who need it most, so that’s why black Africans are one of the key audiences.

Most people with HIV get it from someone who doesn’t realise they have it. Once they have tested, people who didn’t know they were HIV positive can then take steps to protect others and get the treatment they need. National HIV Testing Week is a good opportunity for all of us to act by either going for a test, or at least talking about it with others.

How is HIV detected?

HIV is usually detected by a blood test. An HIV test can either detect ‘antibodies’ (made by the body to try to fight HIV) or ‘antigens’ (a protein found in the HIV cell). Antigens are present in large quantities in the early weeks after infection and then stop being detectable, whereas antibodies can take up to 12 weeks to be detectable.

Some tests just look for antibodies, while some look for antibodies and antigens.

If no sign of infection is found the test is ‘negative’, if infection is found it is ‘positive’. Someone who tests positive has their blood tested a second time to be absolutely sure the result is accurate. Testing positive doesn’t mean a person has AIDS or will go on to get it, but it does mean they can pass HIV on if, for example, they have unprotected sex or share injecting equipment.

Why test?

There are about 18,000 people living with HIV in the UK who are not aware that they are infected. Whatever your result might be, there are now many good reasons to test and few reasons to avoid testing. It is never a good idea to be unsure of your HIV status. Testing puts you in control and, thanks to treatment, could stop you from getting seriously ill and even save your life.

Perhaps your HIV status is not what you think it is. A test will let you know and if you have a ‘rapid HIV test’ you don’t have to wait days for a result. A test at least once a year is a good idea for people who have more than one sexual partner. Testing at the start of a relationship as part of a full sexual health check-up also makes sense, especially if you plan not to use condoms. A test is also recommended after unprotected sex that could have put you at risk of HIV.

Remember – a negative test result in the past is no longer accurate if you have taken risks since.

If you are not sure whether you need to test or not, there is a very useful tool that can help you decide here 

Where to test during National HIV Testing Week

There are many quick and easy options when it comes to HIV testing. Many sexual health clinics, GP surgeries and community organisations offer HIV testing. Postal testing kits are available to order online, enabling you to send off a small blood sample for testing and receive your results by phone. And now home testing kits (where you test yourself and receive your results at the same time – similar to a home pregnancy test) are available to buy online.

More information on where to test is available at: startswithme.org.uk

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