Prince Harry has called for HIV testing to be seen as “completely normal and accessible”, in a new video to mark national HIV testing week.
The Duke of Sussex said people should not be ashamed or embarrassed about taking a test, and instead should treat it in the same way as people protected themselves against viruses, such as 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.”
The HIV and sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust commended the duke’s support in tackling HIV stigma and normalising testing, as it worked towards its aim of reducing the number of new HIV infections to zero.
But the trust said there needed to be a greater focus on tackling “worryingly high rates of undiagnosed and late-stage HIV”.
About one in eight people with HIV are undiagnosed and unaware they have the virus, while 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 tenfold increased risk of short-term mortality.
Harry said it was worth celebrating a 28% drop in new HIV diagnoses over the last two years, but it was no time for complacency.
Wearing a red ribbon in solidarity with all those living with HIV, he 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 the importance of HIV testing in the UK and around the world. When he was tested for HIV live on Facebook two years ago, there was a fivefold increase in orders for HIV tests from Terrence Higgins Trust.
Ian Green, the trust’s chief executive, said: “We’re thrilled to have the duke’s continued support for tackling HIV stigma and normalising testing, ahead of what we hope will be the most successful national HIV testing week ever.
“… It’s an ambitious aim, but we have a real opportunity to get to zero new HIV infections in the UK.”