As Prince Harry has once again evidenced, now that approved HIV self tests are readily available, it is almost impossible to have an excuse for not knowing your HIV status.
Building upon his already outstanding global reputation as being a leader in HIV advocacy, Prince Harry has launched Terrence Higgins Trust’s HIV self-test pop-up shop in Hackney where free BioSURE HIV self tests are being distributed for the start of National HIV Testing Week in England
The first approved HIV self test was launched by BioSure in the UK in 2015, giving people another choice of how they are able test. The test requires only a fraction of a drop of blood and is over 99.7% accurate. Overwhelming evidence has proven the simplicity of the test which gives a person their own result in 15 minutes.
The BioSURE HIV Self Tests have been donated to Terrence Higgins Trusts’s pop-up shop by the Bard Foundation, which has been established following experiences with self testing in both the UK and South Africa, which have highlighted the incredible need for education about HIV and treatments. Advances in antiretroviral therapies now mean that with a one tablet per day regime, the virus can be supressed to a point when it becomes undetectable. This is one of the most important messages to deliver, as it means the person’s health and life expectancy are not impacted and most importantly the virus cannot be passed on. If transmission stops, the battle against HIV is won.
Brigette Bard, founder of the Bard Foundation and CEO of BioSure is passionate about driving and normalising the conversation around HIV - "I am beyond delighted that Prince Harry has chosen again to highlight the importance of regular HIV testing. Last year when he raised awareness by being tested live on social media we saw a 5 fold increase in people wanting to test themselves for HIV and feel empowered to take control and make informed choices. People need to know that the only reason to be afraid of HIV now is if you don’t know your status. As we repeat time and time again, ‘HIV is now 3 letters, not a sentence’ and we have the tools at our fingertips to end this epidemic and create the world’s first AIDS free generation’
In the UK, over 100,000 people are living with HIV and although statistics are dramatically improving, a possible 1 in 6 of those people don't know it and are unknowingly responsible for passing the virus on. On World AIDS Day 2016, the World Health Organisation ‘strongly recommended’ the use of HIV self tests, as extensive research has proven how acceptable it is, especially in groups of people not currently testing in healthcare settings. “Knowing your HIV status is critical and we are confident that the BioSure HIV Self Test empowers people to discreetly test themselves when it is convenient to them and in a place where they feel comfortable,” explains Brigette Bard. “We fundamentally believe that self testing is helping to reduce HIV infection rates.”
Michael found out his positive status by using a BioSURE HIV Self Test provided by Terrence Higgins Trust. He says, “Self testing might have literally saved my life as I’d only had a negative clinical test a few months before and might not have tested again for ages. My world fell apart at the time. I spent days ripping myself apart, thinking about all the ‘ifs’, then I discovered the word ‘undetectable’, the light at the end of a very dark tunnel. I’m now successfully on treatment and am getting back to a happy place, with family and friends around me who give their love and support. It’s always better to know, the alternative is not even worth considering.”
So the final message; HIV is now a manageable disease and with correct treatment at the correct time, those with the virus can live a long and healthy life. But that can only happen once a person has tested positive. So if you don’t test, you can’t treat and we are all able (even Princes) to self test for HIV wherever and whenever we chose to do it.