Why is HIV testing important?
People across the nation are being urged to check their HIV status this week as part of National HIV Testing Week (5-11 February). Regular HIV testing is important for everyone. Whether you test HIV negative or HIV positive, it is crucial to know your status in order to both prevent further transmission and to start treatment as soon as possible and gain access to any support required. It is recommended to test at least once a year, and once every three months if you are sexually active with multiple partners.
The Newfoundland HIV Test is incredibly simple and provides 99% accurate results in just 15 minutes. It is the test of choice of The Terrence Higgins Trust, the largest HIV charity in Europe, and is available on our website and in Tesco.
What is HIV?
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus – a virus that weakens the immune system and limits the body’s ability to fight common infections and disease. AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is the name used to describe a number of potentially life-threatening infections and illnesses that happen when your immune system has been severely damaged by the HIV virus. Although HIV is not curable, these days it is very treatable.
How is HIV transmitted?
The amount of HIV virus present in the blood is referred to as the viral load. Effective HIV treatment reduces the viral load to undetectable levels. If someone has a detectable viral load, they can transmit the HIV virus to others via various bodily fluids including blood, semen, vaginal fluid and breast milk. Someone with an undetectable viral load cannot pass on the virus. AIDS can never be transmitted from one person to another.
What happens if I test HIV positive?
Receiving an HIV positive test result can be very difficult for people to accept and come to terms with, often due to the stigma and various misconceptions surrounding HIV that still exist today.
Nowadays, being HIV positive is an extremely manageable condition and those living with the virus can lead normal, long and healthy lives. However, it is still crucial to test regularly, as early diagnosis is key to receiving the necessary treatment.
There are many charities and organisations that exist in order to help people through the journey of living with HIV, ensuring that no-one need face it alone. This can include emotional support, advice on practising safe sex to prevent further transmission and help with telling people about the diagnosis.
Tackling HIV stigma
Newfoundland recently commissioned a study into the perceptions of Brits towards those living with HIV, with the results showing that there is still much to be done to remove the stigma and tackle the misinformation and misconceptions surrounding HIV. Some of the findings are listed below.
• 73% of heterosexual respondents have never been tested for HIV, compared to 43% of homosexual respondents
• Almost a third (32%) of respondents believe HIV can change your appearance (it can’t)
• 15% of respondents would not work with someone who is HIV positive
These findings demonstrate how much more still needs to be done to educate people about the reality of living with HIV, and shows the importance of initiatives like National HIV Testing Week.
HIV myth busters
1 • HIV cannot be passed on by kissing, drinking from the same glass, sharing cutlery or holding hands. FACT
2 • HIV can be contracted by bitten by mosquitos. MYTH
3 • You are equally likely to transmit HIV through oral sex compared to other types of sex. MYTH
The risk from oral sex is almost negligible compared with other types of sex.
4 • Straight people cannot contract HIV. MYTH
HIV diagnoses of straight people have recently overtaken those of gay people.