The number of gay men testing for HIV in Scotland increased significantly between 2000 and 2010, a study published in HIV Medicine shows.
The percentage of men reporting a test in the previous year increased from 27 to 57%. There was also an increase in the proportion of men who perceived testing as beneficial and as a community norm.
However, significant barriers to testing still remained. These included: fear of a positive result; reservations about opening times and waiting periods at testing clinics; and a concern that testing HIV positive would lead to rejection by potential sexual partners who believed themselves to be HIV negative.
Nevertheless, the investigators believe their results point towards the “normalization of HIV testing”.
Testing is a cornerstone of efforts to control the HIV epidemic.
Prompt diagnosis of the infection has considerable individual health benefits, enabling people to access treatment and care. Late diagnosis of HIV is an important factor underlying much of the remaining HIV-related mortality seen in the UK.
Early detection of HIV also has public health benefits. There are compelling epidemiological data showing that the majority of onward transmissions in the United Kingdom originate in undiagnosed individuals.
Gay men are one of the groups most affected by HIV in the UK. Guidelines recommend an annual HIV test for sexually active gay men and more frequent testing is advocated for those at highest risk of the infection. In an effort to increase the uptake of testing, screening for HIV at genitourinary clinics is now offered on an opt-out basis.
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