News and Views
Terrence Higgins Trust and Health Protection Agency launch pilot scheme allowing Africans in England to test for HIV by post
HIV and sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust and the Health Protection Agency are co-launching a pilot project that will allow Africans living in England to access HIV home sampling kits by post.
From 30th January, Africans will be able to visit Terrence Higgins Trust’s website (www.tht.org.uk/postaltest) and request delivery of an HIV home sampling kit. The service is free and confidential. The user is asked to provide a finger-prick of blood, which they then send to the lab for testing. Users should receive their result within a week of them returning the sample, either by text message (if the result is negative) or with a telephone call to provide support and refer to specialist HIV services (if the result is reactive).
The pilot has been set up to provide an alternative method of testing for those who are unable to access their local sexual health clinic or who want a more private way to test.
Africans remain one of the groups most at risk of HIV infection in the UK. However, one in four Africans with HIV is unaware that they have it. Africans are also the group most likely to be diagnosed late, with around two thirds of diagnoses in this group made after the point at which they should have already started treatment. Late diagnosis is the most important predictor of morbidity and short-term mortality in people living with HIV.
Jason Warriner, Clinical Director at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “Currently, we have a big focus on driving down undiagnosed and late diagnosed HIV within African communities. We need to explore every possible avenue to get more people testing more often. Starting to introduce home sampling programmes removes another obstacle to the kind of community-wide focus on testing we need in order to halt the spread of HIV among Africans living in England.”
Dr Anthony Nardone, Head of Sexual Health Promotion at the Health Protection Agency, said: “The Health Protection Agency is supporting this project because an estimated one in four HIV positive Africans are unaware of their infection. People from this community should have an HIV test, and a regular HIV and STI screen if having unprotected sex with new or casual partners. Ordering a HIV home sampling kit by post makes following this advice even easier. An early HIV diagnosis means timely treatment and a much improved prognosis.”
For further information, or to request a postal HIV test kit, please visit www.tht.org.uk/postaltest.