For the first time, England is now offering free, quick and easy HIV tests that can be done at home. The tests work similarly to COVID-19 lateral flow tests, requiring only a few drops of blood from a small finger prick. The results are displayed shortly after. In addition to the home tests, England also offers lab tests that screen for both HIV and syphilis by analyzing a small blood sample. For those who prefer face-to-face services, testing is also available at sexual health clinics.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) data indicates that testing rates have fallen 20% since the COVID-19 pandemic. The decrease in testing is particularly high among women, with a 22% decrease from 2019, and heterosexual men, with a 41% decrease. HIV can impact people regardless of gender or sexual orientation, and people who are unaware they have the virus are more likely to spread it to others. This highlights the importance of regular testing.
Terrence Higgins Trust, the UK’s leading HIV and sexual health charity, has been working with EastEnders to raise awareness about living with HIV in 2023. The soap has a storyline that depicts a straight cis man who tests positive for the virus. The storyline has been a success, with Terrence Higgins Trust reporting a 75% increase in website traffic after the episode aired, as viewers sought to learn more about the virus. The charity noted that the most popular pages were related to how HIV is transmitted, stages of HIV infection, symptoms of HIV, and post-exposure prophylaxis.