Charlie Sheen’s revelation that he is living with HIV last week serves as a timely reminder that HIV, although now manageable, is still prevalent and can affect anyone. In the UK alone, there are 18,100 people who are unaware they have the disease, which is not only risking their lives, but the lives of others too. This week, Public Health England has launched home-testing kits to help target those who may have the disease without knowing it in a bit to increase diagnosis rates.

HIV now a ‘manageable disease’, but early detection is still essential

It’s estimated that 103,700 people have HIV in the UK, with many people unaware they have the condition. Almost 40% of sufferers are diagnosed at a later stage of the disease, meaning treatments are often less effective. Those who are unaware of their HIV status could also unwittingly be spreading it to others, which is still a serious health concern. Early detection and treatment could ensure that someone living with HIV can enjoy almost the same life expectancy as someone who does not have the disease.

With the provision of free HIV testing kits, it is hoped that more people will get themselves tested for the disease, helping to reduce the fear and intimidation that many people feel which puts them off taking a test. Long waiting times has also put people off, but faster testing methods mean that people can now get their results quicker, enabling them to begin life-saving treatment sooner.

The tests work by using a small finger-prick to produce a drop of blood. This is then sent to a laboratory for testing. People are contacted about their results within three to five days, and if a positive result looks likely, they are asked to visit a sexual health clinic for confirmation. The free test will be available to anyone who requests it until the 1st of January 2016.

Those who are at risk should be tested

Whilst anyone is at risk of HIV, there are some who are considered more ‘at risk’ than others. These include men who have sex with men, and men and women from black African communities. It’s important that anyone who believes they might be at risk of contracting HIV take a test as soon as possible.

Having a well-known face like Charlie Sheen speak publicly about HIV is sure to get people thinking about the subject, reminding everyone that anyone can be affected. With National HIV Testing Week taking place this week, now is a great time to get yourself checked out. Find out more information on testing here.