HIV testing is now becoming almost as crucial as eating or breathing for someone who is very sexually active with multiple partners. If you are sexually active, a section of sex talk 101 should tell you all about the need for this. Particularly if you have a new sexual partner, or have had multiple partners, testing should be the first step.
It is only through testing that you can confirm whether or not you have the virus. It is only through testing that you can be assured that you will not transmit it to your partners, or have it transmitted to you. It is also after testing that you can access HIV PEP, a drug that protects HIV negative patients engaging in high risk behavior from contracting the virus if they have been exposed to it within the last 72 hours, as well as HIV PrEP – a treatment that greatly reduces the risk of infection
Testing in London
It is with this in mind that a campaign, Do It London, was launched. This was in collaboration with the National HIV Testing Week which was launched in 2012. Before the campaign, getting Londoners to get tested even once a year was difficult. However, in the recent past, more and more people have been sensitized on its importance, which has seen growth in the testing rates.
In 2016, 5164 people were found to be HIV positive in the U.K. This is in comparison to 6288 diagnoses in 2015, which represents an 18% decline. A 40% decline in new infections was reported in 5 central London clinics.
Londoners tested more frequently than people anywhere else in the country. The U.K is now one of the first five countries to see a decline in diagnoses in gay and bisexual men, at 21%.
According to Paul Steinberg, HIV testing is the bedrock and gateway for prevention. If found positive, early diagnosis will enable you to start treatment for a normal life expectancy. Steinberg is the London HIV Prevention Program’s lead commissioner.
For an individual to get into the HIV PrEP trial, they must negative, and then go for testing every 3 months after that to stay on it. Prompt diagnosis is also crucial to achieve an undetectable status.
An undetectable status is where the viral load is no longer detectable in standard blood tests. This can only be possible where one has been diagnosed early and has been put on a strict ART treatment regime to suppress the virus.
This however does not mean that it is not present in the body. On the contrary, what is achieved is that the risk of spreading the virus HIV becomes insignificant or even non-existent.
You are always encouraged to visit your local STD clinic so as to also get information on sexual health. However, home testing kits have also been developed in order to reach those who may shy from the traditional method – this is not available in Singapore though.
The Do It London campaign is championing Londoners to take optimum care of their sexual health. This is by use of condoms, regular testing, and immediate use of options such as PrEP and the knowledge of the availability of PEP. For those already positive, anti-retroviral treatment is emphasized in order to achieve undetectable status.