See HIV test as some­thing to be proud of – prince

Wales On Sunday - - NEWS -

THE Duke of Sus­sex has called for HIV test­ing to be seen as “com­pletely nor­mal and ac­ces­si­ble” in a new video mark­ing this year’s Na­tional HIV Test­ing Week.

Harry said peo­ple should not be ashamed or em­bar­rassed about tak­ing a test, and in­stead should treat it in the same way as peo­ple pro­tect against “viruses like cold and flu”.

In the video mes­sage, Harry said: “Tak­ing an HIV test is some­thing to be proud of – not some­thing to be ashamed or em­bar­rassed about.

“As much as you pro­tect your­self at this time of year from ill­nesses and viruses like cold and flu, you can also pro­tect your health by tak­ing an HIV test.”

HIV and sex­ual health char­ity the Ter­rence Hig­gins Trust com­mended the Duke’s sup­port in tack­ling HIV stigma and nor­mal­is­ing test­ing, as it works to­wards its aim of get­ting to zero new HIV in­fec­tions.

But the char­ity said there needs to be greater fo­cus on tack­ling “wor­ry­ingly high rates of un­di­ag­nosed and late-stage HIV”.

Around one in eight peo­ple liv­ing with HIV are un­di­ag­nosed and una- ware they have the virus, while more than four in 10 (43%) of those newly di­ag­nosed in 2017 were di­ag­nosed at a late stage of HIV, mean­ing dam­age to the im­mune sys­tem had al­ready be­gun.

Reg­u­lar test­ing and early di­ag­no­sis are key, with late di­ag­no­sis as­so­ci­ated with a 10-fold in­creased risk of short-term mor­tal­ity.

The duke also said there is “some­thing to cel­e­brate”, with a 28% drop in new HIV di­ag­noses over the past two years.

But he also warned “this is no time for com­pla­cency”.

Harry, wear­ing a red rib­bon in sol­i­dar­ity with all those liv­ing with HIV, called for test­ing to be­come “the norm” and said: “We won’t bring an end to the Hu­man Im­mun­od­e­fi­ciency Virus un­til test­ing is seen as com­pletely nor­mal and ac­ces­si­ble for ev­ery­one.”

Harry has long ad­vo­cated for the im­por­tance of HIV test­ing both in the UK and around the world.

When he tested for HIV live on Face­book two years ago, there was a five-fold in­crease in or­ders for HIV tests from Ter­rence Hig­gins Trust.

Speak­ing in the video mes­sage, he added: “There is still too much stigma, which is stop­ping so many of us from get­ting a sim­ple, quick and easy test.

“We won’t bring an end to the Hu­man Im­mun­od­e­fi­ciency Virus un­til test­ing is seen as com­pletely nor­mal and ac­ces­si­ble for ev­ery­one.

“Two years ago, I took a test and the whole process was ac­tu­ally re­ally easy; the re­sult came back within just a few min­utes.’

“It’s sim­ple – by get­ting tested you are help­ing stop the HIV epi­demic in its tracks. You are help­ing to save lives.”

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