UK HIV testing – black African communities

With black Africans disproportionately affected by HIV in the UK, promoting regular screening remains a key priority. While there has been some success in this regard, challenges remain if we are to accelerate progress.

In 2017, 39% of all diagnoses among heterosexuals were among black Africans, while according to the 2011 census, black Africans made up less than 2% of the population. African men had the highest rate of late diagnoses with 69% of all new diagnoses compared to an average of 43%. It is therefore logical that regular promotion HIV testing should be a key intervention in reducing high levels of late diagnoses and stopping any new associated infections that may result from people living with undiagnosed illnesses. HIV.

As an organization Terrence Higgin Trust worked with members of African communities as well as with other partners to explore ways and propose solutions to overcome some of these challenges. national HIV Test week is one of those initiatives to standardize HIV testing and making sure people are aware of the importance and ease of testing.

When talking about Black Africans, it is important that we recognize that they are a wide range of people with unique backgrounds and cultures.

When talking about Black Africans it is important that we recognize that they are a wide range of people with unique backgrounds and cultures.

For example, there are those who have lived their entire lives in the UK and those who have spent much of their life in different African countries and elsewhere before settling in the UK. Therefore, they may have different experiences and views on HIV. It is important to understand this, because sometimes differently nuanced messages and approaches are needed if we are to be relevant to all.

At the same time, while there is diversity, there are also commonalities, such as stigma, that cross different African communities. Tackling some of them offers opportunities to design large-scale interventions.

Stigma remains a problem common to different African communities facing the response to HIV. Stigma often leads to heightened concerns about privacy and confidentiality when it comes to HIV and can cause people not to get tested or even discuss it. People also worry about whether they will get the support they need if they are diagnosed with HIV.

Our challenge is to make sure people are given different testing options that work for them and to make sure they have up to date knowledge of the realities of HIV. We also need to reassure people about access and effectiveness of treatment because sometimes stigma is motivated by negative experiences of HIV in high prevalence countries where they may have experienced the deaths of friends or family members and seen people struggle to access treatment.

To solve this problem, we focused on providing many case studies of people living well with HIV as well as expanding testing options, such as home testing, to make testing people easier.
Through a program funded by Public Health England, Black Africans in England are one of the groups eligible to order free self-sampling test kits from www.test.hiv for all the months of November and December. With this kit, we take a sample of blood by pricking the finger and send it to a laboratory then we receive the results by SMS, email or phone depending on the option chosen.

People can also use a test where they read their own results. These are available for purchase online and in some street stores and they can also be obtained for free online from some organizations such as Terrence Higgins Trust. This can be delivered to any address and Terrence Higgins Trust offers the option of using Click and Collect, as already happens with other online purchases. www.test.tht.org.uk

Introducing the Click and Collect option due to the fear that others will know they have received a HIV test kit. Some have expressed concern that the / package

Since we started the self-test in March 2018, we have distributed over 3000 free tests to black Africans and black Africans are twice as likely to use the click and collect option as everyone else. This is interesting because it suggests that black African men, who have the highest rates of late diagnosis of HIV, respond positively to the confidentiality afforded by this option.

Our message to all is that the test is free and if it is positive you can access free treatment which will have a huge impact on your life and help you stay healthy.

Takudzwa Mukiwa
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