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9 June 2020, 11:28
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COVID-19 Lockdown could help us end HIV transmission

COVID-19 Lockdown could help us end HIV transmission - picture 1

As the world continues to fight the COVID-19 pandemic one unexpected silver lining to the imposed lockdowns and quarantines is that we’re seeing fewer new HIV infections.

Whilst countries around the globe enforced lockdowns and quarantines on its peoples to prevent the onward transmission of COVID-19 these restrictions have also meant people are having less sex with new partners.

A study in the United Kingdom carried out by the Terrence Higgins Charity found that 84% of those surveyed had abstained from sex with people outside their household during lockdown.

This period of lockdown and reduced sexual activity has given sexual health researchers and charities a “once in a lifetime” opportunity to “break the chain” of the HIV epidemic.

Dr Alan McOwan, lead clinician at 56 Dean Street, said: “With fewer people hooking up for sex, it’s absolutely time to test as we have a great opportunity to pick up even recently acquired HIV infections.

“We didn’t think there would ever be an extended period of abstinence for so many people, but now it’s happened we’re determined to make the most of it.”

With 84% percent of people abstaining from sex for over two months (at time of writing) it means that any result from a HIV test would fall outside the 4 to 8 week “window period” meaning that the results would be more than 95% accurate.

Those who test HIV negative can emerge from lockdown being confident in their status and can take steps, such as condoms and PrEP, to stay negative.

Whilst those who test HIV positive can engage with a HIV clinic to begin life-saving HIV treatment – which has the bonus effect of preventing that person passing HIV on to their sexual partners.

Ian Green, chief executive of the Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “If everyone is able to use their time in lockdown to get tested and know their HIV status, we can ensure something really good comes out of the devastation of the Covid crisis.”

Author: Tom Hayes

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