It’s not a sin – it’s easier than ever to get tested and treated for HIV
Oxfordshire residents are being reminded that HIV testing is now easier than ever for anybody to access.
People can now get tested by ordering a home testing kit with results being sent by text. Tests can be ordered by going to the Free Testing website.
During the national HIV testing week (1 February to 7 February), 825 HIV tests were delivered to Oxfordshire residents alone – that’s more than triple the usual amount.
Residents, regardless of sexuality, should get tested regularly if they change partners, or have been practising unsafe sex.
Dr Shakiba Habibula, Consultant in Public Health at Oxfordshire County Council, said: “Since HIV was first detected, medical advances have meant that most people can live long, happy, healthy lives with a diagnosis, provided that they get that diagnosis as early as possible.
“If you are worried, please do not put off testing. With the advances in treatment, being diagnosed with HIV means you can still live a healthy life with proper treatment. The earlier you are diagnosed with HIV and start treatment, the better the outcome for your health.
“Always remember that using a condom is still one of the most effective ways of not contracting HIV or any sexually transmitted infection (STI).”
There are still 101,000 people living with HIV in the UK and 497 of these are in Oxfordshire.People still face ignorance and discrimination that can limit their opportunities.
Although the HIV epidemic is slowing in the UK, nearly half of people who test positive are finding out they have HIV very late, meaning the virus may have damaged their health permanently. Public Health England data shows that out of 32 people aged 15 and over who tested positive for HIV in Oxfordshire a total of 11 were diagnosed late between 2017 and 2019.
However, by catching the virus early and with the right treatment, most people with HIV can now live very full, long and happy lives.
There is also medication available that can now help to prevent the spread of HIV. PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) medication can also help to prevent the spread of HIV. It can be taken by someone who is likely to be exposed to the virus if they had sex. If they did come into contact with HIV, PrEP would prevent the virus from infecting that person
Anybody of any gender or sexuality can take PrEP; some may find it useful to take it every day whereas others will take it for specific occasions. It can be accessed from sexual health clinics
PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) is medication available for those who are HIV negative but may have recently come into contact with the virus. When taken within 72 hours, it can stop HIV if it has entered the body.
It is available from local A&E’s and sexual health clinics. A clinician can access somebody’s suitability on a case by case basis.
- The most recent estimate suggests there were 105,200 people living with HIV in the UK in 2019. Of these, around 6,600 are undiagnosed so do not know they are HIV positive (https://www.tht.org.uk/hiv-and-sexual-health/about-hiv/hiv-statistics).
- In Oxfordshire, the rate of new HIV diagnosis was five cases per 100,000 people aged 15 and over in 2019. This was below the average across the country, of eight per 100,000
- Early diagnosis usually results in normal life expectancy, while a late diagnosis leads to a tenfold increase of death within one year
- Those who are undiagnosed spend an average of three to five years unaware they have the virus.
- HIV is passed from person to person through body fluids such as semen or blood and is most commonly caught by having unprotected sex. It cannot be spread through day-to-day contact like sharing cutlery or kissing.