Healthcare professionals must do more to reduce fear of HIV and encourage more people to come get tested, suggests a new UK study.
Research by a team from Royal Holloway, University of London, suggested millions of people worldwide with HIV have never been diagnosed due to fear of the condition and getting tested.
”The fact HIV is treatable needs to be stressed”
These include around a quarter of the 100,000 or so HIV positive people in the UK who do not know they are infected.
The researchers reviewed evidence from 62 studies from around the globe in an effort to identify psychological factors that might prevent people getting tested.
Their findings, published in the journal AIDS and Behavior, found fear of HIV and of taking the test itself were the biggest barriers to more people coming forward.
As well as not having access to the right care and treatment, people living with HIV are at risk of spreading the condition, they noted.
“Our research shows it is imperative that more is done to reduce the fear of HIV and HIV testing to increase the amount of people being tested,” said study lead Dr Michael Evangeli.
“A test for HIV, which can now be done in private at home, is necessary to receive HIV treatment and care,” he said.
“The earlier this can be done helps to reduce onward transmission of HIV. The fact HIV is treatable needs to be stressed,” he added.
The study authors suggested approaches including peer education and national media and publicity campaigns could help boost testing rates.
There is also “considerable evidence” to show healthcare providers can increase testing rates by making home tests easily available and by operating mobile testing services, they said.