by Kate Ebbutt
This World AIDs Day, we’ve teamed up with our charity partner Terrence Higgins Trust to look at public knowledge around HIV, including PrEP, testing, and the goal to end HIV by 2030. We polled 2008 adults through YouGov, and the results show that public awareness of HIV remains shockingly low.
The UK has committed to ending HIV transmission by 2030, however, 77% of the people we polled didn’t know that was possible. Effective prevention, testing, treatment, and care are our key weapons in this fight. Despite years of progress, there is much more to do if we are to reach our collective goals, our survey highlights a worrying lack of awareness of HIV testing, services, and care.
We found that many people have old information about HIV. They think that HIV is still a death sentence, which can make them fearful of people with HIV and leads to prejudice and discrimination. People who are on effective HIV treatment usually have normal life expectancy and can’t pass on the virus. This is a life-changing fact – but only a quarter of the British public know about it. And just 20% of people know about PrEP, a pill you can take that protects against HIV.
Crucially, only 27% of people know that you can safely and accurately test for HIV without visiting a clinic. Testing is crucial to the 2030 goal so it’s clear we need to raise awareness on ways to test. At Preventx, we have seen that overall usage of online HIV testing continues to rise in the UK, with over 540,000 at-home HIV tests expected through our services before the end of 2022. With 516,457 online HIV tests taken in 2021, that means more than one million people will have taken an at-home HIV test in the last two years.
Dr John White medical director at Preventx said:
“If we are going to meet our collective ambition of stopping HIV transmission in England by 2030, then we must do more to make everyone aware of the testing options that are available to them – both online and in person – and get more people testing.
“Recent data from UK Health Security Agency shows that online testing for HIV rose by 32% between 2020 and 2021 and at Preventx we have just delivered our 2 millionth HIV test. We must ensure that robust testing and treatment pathways are in place, and that sexual health services are convenient, accessible, and engaging with all communities. We also must do much more from an education perspective to tackle the misinformation and stigma that still surrounds HIV.
“We encourage everyone who is sexually active to test regularly and make sure they know their HIV status.”