Free HIV home test kits now available in Thurrock in bid to ‘break the chain’ of HIV
A NEW drive to increase HIV testing in Thurrock has been launched by the UK’s largest HIV and sexual health charity, Terrence Higgins Trust.
Groups most at risk of HIV can now test at home and get a result within less than 15 minutes. The kits which are sent in the post in plain packaging, are now available for free in a bid to break the chain of HIV infections across the region.
In 2018, 47% of people diagnosed with HIV in Thurrock were diagnosed at a late stage, compared to 43% across the whole of England. A late diagnosis can be bad for an individual’s health so making testing as easy as possible is really important.
The launch of the free at home testing service comes as a recent nationwide survey by Terrence Higgins Trust and sexual health clinic 56 Dean Street found the vast majority (84%) of people are abstaining from sex outside of their immediate household because of the Covid-19 lockdown.
This means that for anyone who has not had sex since the start of lockdown, if they test for HIV now, they will get an accurate rest. That’s because it can take up to a month from potential HIV exposure for tests to detect the virus.
The survey of over 800 UK adults also found that following the Government’s guidance (57%) and to slow the spread of coronavirus (55%) were the main reasons for not meeting up for sex. Just 6% said they are avoiding sex outside their immediate household to make sure they don’t contract HIV.
Free home test kits are now available for a number of communities, including gay and bisexual men, transgender people, Black African populations and anyone born in a country with a high prevalence of HIV.
Support is available for anyone who receives a positive result and effective treatment means that people living with HIV cannot pass on the virus.
Sophie Milner, Essex Service Manager at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: ‘Testing for HIV can now be done in less time than it takes to make a cup of tea. We have an incredible opportunity to break the chain on HIV infections in Essex and that’s why we’re determined to make testing as easy as possible. I’d encourage anyone who is eligible to order a free test today, because this chance to beat HIV won’t wait and won’t come around again.
‘It’s estimated that around 7,500 people in the UK are living with undiagnosed HIV, which is bad for their health and means they may unwittingly pass it on. For most people, they will receive a negative result but whatever the outcome, help and support is available. If more people test, we can ensure something really good comes out of the devastation of the Covid crisis.’
How to get tested for HIV
Groups eligible for a free HIV self test kit can order online: https://test.tht.org.uk/breakthechain
Local sexual health services
Local services provide a test at home service that tests for chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis and HIV, with results sent by text or phone call a few days later. Kits can be ordered online via links below.
Essex Sexual Health Service: www.essexsexualhealthservice.org.uk.
Thurrock Sexual Health Service: www.thurrocksexualhealthservice.org.uk
Southend Sexual Health Service: www.southendsexualhealthservice.org.uk
Those who receive a reactive result will still be able to access the face-to-face support necessary to confirm the result and access free HIV treatment, with social distancing measures in place for Covid-19 safety. Psychological support is also available, with Terrence Higgins Trust offering free online counselling to anyone living with HIV.
Anyone can be affected by HIV but the groups most impacted by the virus are particularly encouraged to test. In the UK that is gay and bisexual men, men and women from Black African communities, and trans people.