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Free home testing scheme to ‘boost HIV diagnosis’

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Free HIV home-sampling has been launched in England to try and increase testing, as new figures suggest 18,100 people are unaware they have the virus.

Public Health England has launched the first nationally available HIV kit for testing those at higher-risk, alongside a new funding for innovative HIV prevention projects.

“I would encourage all those at higher risk of HIV, such as men who have sex with men or people from black African communities, to seriously consider testing”

Kevin Fenton

Patients deemed at higher-risk of HIV can now order an HIV home-sampling test kit online. The initiative has been timed to accompany National HIV Testing Week, which starts on the 21 November.

New PHE figures show an estimated 103,700 people in the UK were living with HIV in 2014, with around 17% unaware and at risk of unknowingly passing on the virus to others.

Among men who have sex with men, 6,500 remain unaware of their HIV infection, as do a further 3,900 men and women from black African communities.

Public health minister Jane Ellison said: “We have made great strides in HIV treatment… but until HIV is a thing of the past, there is more to do and we need to be bold.

“I want the launch of the first National HIV Home Sampling service to encourage people at risk to find out their HIV status, using our free kits, so they can get the best care for themselves and partners,” she said.

Professor Kevin Fenton, director of health and wellbeing at PHE, said: “Despite national rates of HIV declining, it is still a growing problem within certain communities and levels of HIV testing among high risk people remain too low.

“With National HIV Testing Week approaching, I would encourage all those at higher-risk of HIV, such as men who have sex with men or people from black African communities, to seriously consider testing, especially as they are now able to order a home-sampling kit free online,” he added.


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