The stigma surrounding HIV drives the fear many people have of getting tested, especially straight men. New reports from Public Health England show that straight men were most likely to be diagnosed in the late stages of the disease, which is when the immune system starts to get compromised.
Four out of 10 people diagnosed in the United Kingdom last year were already in the late stages, according to the report. While 55 percent of them were straight men, 53 percent of them were Black men and women and 49 percent were straight women (of all races).
96 percent of new diagnoses were treated with antiretroviral therapy, and 94 percent ended up becoming virally suppressed.
The fear of getting tested is matched by the fear surrounding HIV. Despite the endless amounts of opportunities to get tested, stigma halts our progress. It takes people like Prince Harry, who was tested live on Facebook earlier this year, to show the importance of testing.
As Plus reported, after the Prince shared his experience with the world, The Terrence Higgins Trust saw a surge in orders for private HIV tests you can take at home. Within a matter of days, they were selling 150 tests per day, which was described as a “groundbreaking moment in the fight against HIV.”
“We know that one in six people living with HIV do not know that they have it,” Dr. Michael Brady, Medical Director of Terrence Higgins Trust, said in a statement. “Testing puts you in control and, thanks to treatment, will stop you from getting seriously ill, enable you to live a normal lifespan and prevent you from passing the virus on to anyone else. That’s why it’s so important that we continue looking for new ways to make HIV testing more accessible to those most at risk, and why it’s fantastic to see the very tangible and immediate impact of Prince Harry’s support for HIV testing.”
So what do we do now?
The challenge has never been getting through the test itself, but rather fighting through the fear leading up to it. But if you think about it, fear is a bully. When you look at it directly in the face, it disappears. The challenge is raking up enough courage and knowledge to do so.
There is tremendous power in knowing — just knowing. Refusing to get tested out of fear will only insight more fear. It’s time we turn our fear into pride by testing proudly.
Taking control of your health is something everyone should be proud of.