People in England are being encouraged to order a free home HIV test as part of a government drive to improve diagnosis rates.
To mark National HIV Testing week, the tests can be ordered now via the NHS website freetesting.hiv.
The test gives a result in 15 by analysing a drop of blood from the finger.
A ‘reactive’ result means HIV is possible and support is available to arrange a clinic check.
Dr Alison Brown, interim head of HIV surveillance at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), said:
“HIV does not discriminate, so no matter your gender or sexual orientation, using condoms and PrEP if you’re eligible are key to prevention. In the UK, people who are unaware they are living with HIV are most likely to pass the virus on to others.
“Taking up a free and confidential HIV test regularly when having condomless sex will ensure you’re diagnosed early and started on effective treatment, helping to reduce transmission of HIV and the number of people with undiagnosed HIV.
“In some areas HIV and STIs self-sampling kits can be done in the comfort of your own home.”
HIV testing rates are a fifth lower than before the Covid-19 pandemic, with heterosexual men in particular testing at a much lower rate than in 2019.
Straight men and women are also much more likely to be diagnosed at a later stage.
Charity Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) has been working with BBC drama EastEnders to raise awareness of HIV among the heterosexual community.
Taku Mukiwa, head of health programmes at THT, said:
“Gay and bisexual men and black African people continue to be the most impacted by HIV in the UK, but anyone who’s sexually active can be affected and should think about testing.
“As the EastEnders HIV storyline we’ve been advising on shows, the truth is it’s always better to know your HIV status, whether positive or negative.
“If it’s negative, you can make sure it stays that way.
“While, as Zack in EastEnders is learning, huge advances in HIV treatment mean you can live a long healthy life with the virus, have children who are HIV-negative and that HIV can’t be passed on to anyone else.”