The week, which will run from 23rd – 30th November, is being co-ordinated through HIV Prevention England (HPE), a partnership of community organisations funded by the Department of Health to carry out national HIV prevention work in England among communities at an increased risk of infection. It forms the centrepiece of HPE’s autumn campaign Think HIV, which aims to encourage gay and bisexual men to test more regularly for the virus.
To take part in the campaign, gay and bisexual men can visit www.thinkHIV.org.uk and complete a short survey about their sex life, to receive personalised advice about how regularly they should be testing for HIV.
In the UK, gay men are one of the groups most disproportionately affected by HIV. However, one in four gay men with HIV currently remains undiagnosed and therefore at risk of serious health problems. Someone who is diagnosed late, after a point at which they should have started treatment, is nine times more likely to die within a year of receiving their diagnosis than someone who tests in good time. In addition, undiagnosed HIV is a key factor driving the epidemic among gay men, with the majority of onward transmission coming from men who are unaware that they have the infection.
Paul Ward, Deputy Chief Executive at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “National HIV Testing Week gives us a great opportunity to remind men of the importance of regular testing. Terrence Higgins Trust recommends that sexually active gay and bi men test for HIV at least once a year, and more regularly if they have a high number of partners. However, at present less than a quarter of men take an annual test. If the gay community can drive that figure upwards by testing more often, we will see a reduction in undiagnosed HIV, which in turn will begin to put the brakes on the spread of infection.
“We believe it is within our grasp to halt the spread of HIV, but solving this lies just as much with the gay community as it does with the Government. That’s why we need the whole community – venues, gay businesses, and every one of us – to get behind this new initiative and turn a spotlight on HIV testing, not just during testing week but all year round.”
Think HIV will be promoted via adverts in gay media, posters in gay venues, and on bus adverts in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Luton. A number of regional organisations across England will also be commissioned through HPE to promote the campaign in their local communities.
National HIV Testing Week will run from Friday 23rd – Friday 30th November 2012. It is planned that the week will be an annual event.