National HIV Testing Week Round Up

National HIV Testing Week 2017 launched with much excitement and many activities happening around the country.

On Wednesday 15 November, Prince Harry attended the opening of Terrence Higgins Trust’s HIV self testing Pop-up Shop in Hackney, London, to launch the national campaign at the highest level.

He met with Andrew Bates, a young man who was diagnosed with HIV in 2015, who shared his story and talked about the importance of testing. Prince Harry also met Yvette Twagiramariya, a reporter and one of the faces of the It Starts With Me campaign, who took a live HIV test to show him how the self testing kits work.

The Prince met and talked with some local Hackney residents, and gave each of them one of the self testing kits to take home.

Government and political activity

On the same day, Public Health England (PHE) released new figures which showed that the drive to increase HIV testing is having an impact, with a 21.8% drop in the number of people who are undiagnosed and do not know that they are living with HIV.

The rate of late diagnosis is also decreasing gradually, although it still remains unacceptably high.

Dr Valerie Delpech, Head of HIV Surveillance at Public Health England (PHE), said: ‘This year, there are three firsts in the 30-year history of the UK HIV epidemic.

‘In London, all the global UNAIDS 90:90:90 targets have been met [;] … HIV transmission among gay and bi men has fallen [;] and the death rate among people with HIV who are diagnosed promptly and on treatment is now comparable to the rest of the population. We celebrate these extraordinary achievements which are the result of a comprehensive response involving many key players and organisations. By continuing to invest in effective preventative measures … the elimination of HIV transmission, AIDS and HIV-related deaths could become a reality in the UK.’

In support of National HIV Testing Week 2017, PHE expanded availability of free HIV postal test kits to all areas of England. The additional tests are available to order until Thursday 4 January 2018. Last year more than 20,000 tests were ordered during a similar period and we anticipate that even more will be distributed this year.

This year we had more MPs than ever test for HIV. We worked in collaboration with Yorkshire MESMAC, The African Institute of Social Development, Staffordshire Buddies, Sunrise Family Support, Trade Sexual Health, LASS, Summit House, The Brigstowe Project and The Brunswick Centre to test 16 MPs all around England.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd took the blood test, as did Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas, Public Health Minister Steve Brine and Labour’s Liz Kendall to promote National HIV Testing Week.

Ms Rudd and a number of MPs tested in their parliamentary offices, while others attended the Terrence Higgins Trust headquarters in London or visited local services in their constituencies.

Afterwards, the Home Secretary tweeted: ‘Despite the look on my face, the pain wasn’t that bad! Just took an HIV test with Terrence Higgins Trust to raise awareness for HIV Testing Week.’

Other MPs who also took HIV tests include: Labour’s Sarah Champion, Peter Kyle, Lilian Greenwood, Gareth Snell, Ian Austin, Thangham Debbonaire, Tracy Brabin, Thelma Walker and Alex Norris, along with Stephen Hammond, Tom Pursglove and Jon Ashworth from the Conservatives.

Mr Kyle, MP for Hove, told the BBC: ‘HIV is a long-term manageable condition and the earlier the diagnosis, the better it is for the patient, so it’s important to get tested no matter who you are.

‘The fear and stigma surrounding HIV is still a barrier to testing, so I hope I’ve shown today that having a test is fuss-free and easy and that I can help make the stigma and fear around HIV a thing of the past.’

Local activity

The GMI Partnership, consisting of Positive East, METRO and Spectra, also launched National HIV Testing Week locally by holding a large-scale rapid workplace HIV testing initiative with Tideway. Tideway is a huge construction project, with approximately 1,000 people on site daily.

Newham CCG staff and partners kick-started a new local HIV programme with a workplace testing event on Friday 24 November, demonstrating a commitment to enhanced HIV testing efforts. A total of 28 staff got tested and the event also received coverage in local media.

Barts Health NHS Trust, in partnership with Waltham Forest Council, provided a range of briefing sessions on HIV and hepatitis C as part of National HIV Testing Week. All the sessions were open to anyone working in a healthcare setting and had a good turnout.

Local authorities commissioned extra activities and promotion in their respective areas, including Croydon, Redbridge, Sutton, Kingston, Hertfordshire and Manchester.

Clinics and community organisations prepared more than 300 additional testing events around the country for people to participate in, which were promoted through the It Starts With Me website. These tests and other events such as information stalls occurred in clinics, pharmacies, libraries, colleges, night venues, and mobile testing buses in Birmingham, Kingston, Redbridge, Buckinghamshire, Somerset, Blackpool, Walsall, Lancashire and many other areas.

Organisations including Terrence Higgins Trust and The Brunswick Centre also gave media interviews to raise awareness of HIV testing during the week and to dispel the stigma people affected by HIV face.

Campaign results

Dr Graham Mackenzie, a Consultant in Public Health, kindly mapped out the Twitter impact of the campaign over the course of the event, and has published a blog showing the results. Over a 17 day period, there were 7,113 tweets from 3,138 contributors, an estimated audience of 19.4 million individuals and 47.5 million impressions.

We are still in the process of gathering data to evaluate the overall campaign. Kantar Public is currently conducting an independent evaluation into the overall reach and impact of National HIV Testing Week to target communities. At the same time, we are putting together an in-house evaluation of the other aspects of the campaign including social media activity, resources ordered, tests delivered, and media coverage.

Your feedback is valuable to us. Please complete a brief, five minute survey to tell us about your experience during testing week and how we can improve in the future.

Thank you for all your support, enthusiasm and dedication to stopping HIV in the UK and participating in National HIV Testing Week to help achieve this goal.

New briefing on Trans People and HIV Testing

HIV testing is crucial for identifying those who are undiagnosed so that they can receive life-saving treatment early and stop the transmission of HIV.

Promoting testing among trans people is particularly important because they have a higher prevalence of HIV, and general health services may not meet their needs appropriately.

This year, HIV Prevention England put a spotlight on increasing testing among trans people as part of the National HIV Testing Week campaign. In early November, we hosted a webinar on Promoting trans inclusive HIV testing and sexual health services [PDF] in partnership with CliniQ, ClinicT, The LGBT Foundation and Yorkshire MESMAC.

Following on from that, we have produced a short information briefing highlighting the reasons why HIV testing is so important for trans people, addressing barriers to HIV testing, and including helpful tips, tools and resources on providing a trans-friendly health service.

Trans People and HIV Testing [PDF]

Promote your National HIV Testing Week events by registering them online

Are you holding any National HIV Testing Week activities? Would you like these to be promoted to people in your local area?

Working in collaboration with NAM, we’re offering to promote your National HIV Testing Week events through our website and social media.

How it works

Simply complete this brief form on the NAM website, providing your organisation and event details.

NAM form for registering NHTW events

Your event will be registered with NAM and then be promoted to thousands of people on the It Starts With Me website as well as on our social media channels.

NHTW event search results example page

When individuals search for services in their area, your National HIV Testing Week event will show up in the results.

Register your event now

GMI Partnership launches National HIV Testing Week in London with large-scale rapid workplace HIV testing

On Tuesday 14 November The GMI Partnership, a consortium of three charities, (Positive East, METRO and Spectra) will be launching National HIV Testing Week with a large-scale rapid workplace HIV testing initiative.

Tideway is a huge construction project, located near Vauxhall, upgrading London’s infrastructure with approximately 1,000 people on site. Tideway is getting involved with National HIV Testing Week by providing workplace HIV testing alongside the GMI Partnership.

The GMI Partnership will be providing a range of services on the day, including:

  • Confidential rapid HIV testing.
  • Information and resources on sexual health and services available across London (as well as free STI screens if requested).
  • Linking people with sexual health clinics for those who want extra support.
  • Referrals to clinics for those testing reactive or needing emergency post exposure prophylaxis (PEP) treatment.
  • Information about how to access pre exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), including the PrEP Impact trial.
  • Free condoms and lubricant.
  • Referrals into counselling services for those worried about the risks they are taking with their sexual health.
  • Promoting the HIV support services we provide across the GMI Partnership partner agencies.

The GMI Partnership is committed to reducing the onward transmission of HIV, and stopping the stigma that can surround testing.

For more information on this and other National HIV Testing Week events by The GMI Partnership visit their website.

Free HIV postal test kits are now available across England to eligible individuals

testing kit

Since 2015, Public Health England (PHE) and a number of participating local authorities have funded a national HIV postal testing scheme for people from communities which experience a higher prevalence of HIV. These include gay and bisexual men, black Africans, and individuals who have a partner from a high prevalence country.

In support of National HIV Testing Week 2017, PHE have expanded availability of free HIV postal test kits to all areas of England. The additional tests will be available to order from now until Thursday 4 January 2018. Last year, more than 20,000 tests were ordered during a similar period and it is anticipated that even more will be distributed this year.

HIV postal test kits, or home sampling kits as they are also known, allow individuals to take a sample themselves at home by taking a finger-prick blood test. Unlike home testing kits, where the individual receives an immediate result, this postal test is then sent to a local laboratory for HIV testing and specialist management.

If a person has a reactive test result, they are contacted within five working days and given support options and information on where to get specialist services. Those with a negative result are contacted and informed within three days, or they can log in online using their unique personal code to check their results.

The national postal testing scheme complements existing HIV testing services. A postal test is highly accurate just four weeks after infection, and individuals who get a reactive result can get help in arranging a follow up clinical appointment. The scheme offers individual a viable alternative to testing in-person, and also provides the system major cost savings.

Postal HIV tests can be ordered from www.test.hiv.