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National HIV Testing Week

November 2012 saw England’s first National HIV Testing Week (NHTW). It was co-ordinated by Terrence Higgins Trust as part of an HIV Prevention England campaign aimed at black African people and men who have sex with men (MSM).

The aim of NHTW then and now is an increase in the number of MSM and Africans who test for HIV annually by:

  • increasing awareness of the volume and variety of ways and places where an HIV test can be taken
  • increasing access to HIV testing via online tools and provision of postal sampling and community-based rapid testing
  • increasing awareness of the benefits of regular HIV testing and treatment for the individual and for the community.

For clinical staff a further aim is to increase awareness of the need to test across appropriate settings and increase offers of testing.

Background

For the first testing week, more than 55 organisations delivered events, support or testing sessions, 118 news items appeared in the media and 3,500 posters and 77,900 wallet cards promoting the benefits of testing were distributed. Medical Director of the NHS Bruce Keogh sent a letter to all doctors in the country (GPs and specialist clinicians) backing the initiative and asking them to carry out more tests. Bodies also supporting the initiative were the Department of Health, Health Protection Agency, BASHH (British Association of Sexual Health and HIV), British HIV Association (BHIVA) and the National AIDS Trust. Annie Lennox, Stephen Fry and Boris Johnson lent celebrity endorsement and support on Twitter.

Following feedback on the 2012 event, this year NHTW has a longer lead-in time to enable more organisations to get involved and to complement World AIDS Day (1 December) activity. Following last year’s success there will be a pan-European HIV Testing Week organised by HIV in Europe, covering the same period (Friday 22 November to Friday 29 November).

Target audience

NHTW activity is targeted at MSM and black African people in England. These two groups make up seven in 10 people in the UK living with HIV (diagnosed and undiagnosed).

How we will encourage testing

The approach is one proven to change behaviour. When unsure about the correct thing to do, people take their cue from others. They are more likely to do something if they know and see that many others are doing it, especially if they can identify with them. The effect is magnified the greater the number of individuals seen endorsing a behaviour. HIV testing is a good subject for this approach as for many it is not an easy, clear cut decision to make. Testing is an issue where the influence of others can simplify an otherwise difficult choice about what is the best thing to do.

People from the target communities will be shown pledging to test in mass media and online advertising, whereas real life pledges will be recorded on the It Starts With Me website.

You can get involved!

Anyone can take part in NHTW provided they offer free testing to MSM or Africans or activities that promote testing to them. Material is available free of charge to support your plans. From 1 October you can order posters, leaflets and other items by contacting Andie Dyer on andie.dyer@tht.org.uk

We will be increasing awareness of the need to carry out tests among medical staff and care-givers beyond the traditional testing environments of sexual health clinics. We will also brief clinicians, African faith leaders, commissioners of services and key local authority people (including Directors of Public Health and chairs of Health and Wellbeing boards).

To tell us what you’re doing, please email Mark Kenwright on mark.kenwright@tht.org.uk

Download campaign elements and resources 

Local delivery

Anyone whose work can reach MSM and Africans is invited to support NHTW with their own activity. Almost 40 HPE local delivery partners are organising community events, one-to-one and group-based outreach and enhanced testing activity in support of the week. Activity will be targeted at groups most at risk of undiagnosed infection (such as those with higher partner numbers).

Measuring impact

Monitoring and evaluation is built in throughout HPE's work and is co-ordinated by Sigma Research at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Activity to be measured during NHTW and the weeks before and after includes the number of tests carried out by local partners, website visits, use of the clinic finder, engagement on social media and numbers pledging to test. The proportion of those reporting a test in the last year in surveys of MSM and Africans will be compared to previous survey findings to identify changes in testing behaviour. As well as measuring local delivery activity, targets have been set for levels of recognition of the campaign and opportunities to view it.

Contact

To order campaign material contact Andie Dyer, Marketing Officer, from 1 October 2013 on: andie.dyer@tht.org.uk

Send your enquiries about the campaign to us via the above contact, the It Starts With Me Facebook pages or email Mark Kenwright on mark.kenwright@tht.org.uk