Short life working group on HIV testing update

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Wednesday 13th December 2017

There are advantages of getting tested early – and often. Getting tested for HIV is a critical first step in HIV prevention and treatment. Often, people living with HIV visit health care services years before receiving a diagnosis but are never tested for HIV. Plus, early diagnosis can link individuals to immediate access to treatment, dramatically increasing a person’s quality of life and health outcomes. Although Scotland has made great strides since the introduction of the HIV testing opt-out policy, there has been a relative lack of progress and missed opportunities in achieving higher rates of early diagnosis in Scotland, in particular with at-risk populations. Access to testing services for key populations is central to achieving a meaningful reduction of HIV rates, and it is clear that stigma and inequalities contribute to negative health outcomes of HIV-vulnerable populations. But, in order to make progress, we need to understand the environment in which we wish to see change and the forces at work that produce stigma and reinforce population disparities. In light of this, Scotland has revised their recommendations and priorities by shifting its discourse and focus towards the social determinants of health.

Today, approximately 13% of people living with HIV in Scotland are unaware of their status. Against this background, HIV Scotland is leading the Short Life Working Group on HIV testing, bringing together partners from academia, the third sector, Scottish Government and NHS to identify barriers and to develop key initiatives and strategies relating to HIV testing in Scotland. To realise any meaningful impact, the group has embarked on a literature review; evidencing the barriers HIV-vulnerable populations face when considering HIV testing in Scotland. The review aims to inform a broader, national strategy on increasing rates of early diagnosis and testing uptake, aligned with global targets set by The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

The report by the group will be available by the end pf March 2018. While there is still much to do, HIV Scotland remains committed to advancing the rights of people living with or affected by HIV.