National HIV testing week 2024

Highlighting the importance of testing this HIV Testing Week

Today marks the start of National HIV Testing Week (5-11 February), an annual campaign designed to promote regular HIV testing, particularly among groups that are most affected by HIV.

The campaign is organised and delivered by HIV Prevention England (HPE), the national HIV prevention programme funded by Public Health England.

Managed by the Terrence Higgins Trust, HPE co-ordinates and delivers HIV prevention work with communities most impacted by HIV.

In this blog, we discuss the latest data on HIV testing, why testing is important, and what is required for an HIV test.

The latest data on HIV testing

According to the report ‘HIV testing PrEP, new HIV diagnoses and care outcomes for people accessing HIV services 2023’ published by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), the number of people testing for HIV increased by 10% between 2021 and 2022.

However, there were still fewer people testing in 2022 compared with 2019, and uptake of HIV testing is especially low among women.

Late diagnosis also remains high in England, with 44% of diagnoses in England in 2022 made at a late stage of infection.

Commenting on the data, the British HIV Association (BHIVA), said: “The report highlights the need for a more concerted effort to reach women and minoritised groups to reduce health inequalities regarding access to HIV treatment and care, as well as access to HIV testing and prevention (PrEP).”

Why is HIV testing so important?

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus that weakens your immune system over time, and is transferred through bodily fluids including blood, vaginal fluids, and semen. It can also be spread via blood.

HIV testing is extremely important because it is the only way for a person to find out their HIV status, thereby reducing the risk of transmission from person to person.

Although there are some early symptoms that people can look out for including fever, headache, tiredness or fatigue, a sore throat and/or swollen lymph nodes, many people do not display any symptoms for weeks, months or even years (i.e. are asymptomatic).

This means that HIV is highly transmissible and is often passed on through sexual intercourse by people who do not realise that they have the virus.

For people who have HIV, early diagnosis can help ensure they are able to seek the correct treatment before the infection progresses and symptoms worsen.

When is the best time to take an HIV test?

The window period for HIV – the amount of time from when you are first infected to when the infection can be detected in a blood sample – is 4-12 weeks.

For this reason, it is recommended that you take an HIV test no sooner than four weeks after potential exposure to the infection.

This is because if you have been infected with HIV, it takes time for HIV antibodies and antigens to show up in a blood sample. Therefore, if you collect your sample too soon, the results of your test may not be accurate.

However, if you have started to experience symptoms, you should test immediately.

What samples are required for an HIV test?

An AlphaBiolabs HIV test requires a blood sample to be collected using a small, finger prick lancet device.

When you receive your sample collection kit, simply follow the enclosed instructions to collect your blood sample.

Once you have collected your sample, place it in the protective packaging and return to our UK laboratory using the pre-paid tracked return envelope included in the kit.

How can I order an HIV test?

There are many ways that you can access HIV testing including via your GP, local sexual health services, and via HIV charities.

However, it is also easy to order an at-home test online, direct from AlphaBiolabs.

For just £29, our test will tell you whether you have HIV-1 and HIV-2 markers, as well as the p24 early detection marker, using only a finger prick blood sample.

If you receive a Reactive result from an AlphaBiolabs HIV test, you MUST contact your GP or local sexual health clinic as soon as possible for confirmatory testing, further guidance, and treatment options.

You must be at least 16 years of age to purchase a home STI test from AlphaBiolabs.

IMPORTANT: If you believe you have been exposed to HIV within the past 72 hours, you should seek PEP medication from your local sexual health clinic before ordering a HIV test.

If you are experiencing symptoms that are causing severe pain or discomfort, or that require a face-to-face examination, we advise you to contact your GP or local sexual health clinic as soon as possible.

For more information, call our friendly and discreet Customer Services team on 0333 600 1300 or email health@alphabiolabs.com.

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