The National AIDS Trust (NAT) is calling for new HIV testing ideas, saying high risk groups should have to ‘opt-out’ of HIV testing.
In a new report launched today (8 May), the NAT have outlined the steps to reduce late HIV testing in the UK.
NAT wish to shift the emphasis, saying there should be an assumption that a sexually active gay man should have a regular HIV test rather than seeking it out from a STD clinic.
According to a recent Stonewall report, gay and bisexual men are still at the top of transmission rates.
The number of people living with HIV in the UK will this year reach 100,000 and 25% will be unaware of their infection. Latest statistics show half of adults living with HIV are diagnosed late.
Chief executive of NAT Deborah Jack has said it is important the NHS recognizes that HIV testing is cost effective and realise it saves money in the long run.
She said: ‘At present it is a scandal that most people with HIV are living for at least five years undiagnosed and that many repeatedly attend healthcare without any recommendation of an HIV test, and with testing guidelines ignored by many healthcare professionals.’
Stonewall’s research say a quarter of the men they surveyed had never been tested for a sexually transmitted infection and 30% had never had an HIV test.
The most common reason for not testing is an assumption they are not at risk. But a third say they have not tested for HIV because they have not had any symptoms – even though early testing, diagnosis and treatment before symptoms occur is clearly linked to better long-term outcomes.
Others say they haven’t been offered tests, they don’t know where to go, the clinics are intimidating or the testing process is off-putting.
NAT policy officer Steve Akehurst told Gay Star News: ‘The biggest thing is we shouldn’t be afraid of HIV, what we should be afraid of is undiagnosed HIV.
‘The worst thing is not to know that you have HIV.’