SDLP Foyle MP Mark Durkan has taken a HIV test at Westminster to mark World Aids Day.
Mr Durkan took the test this week to help raise awareness of the importance of HIV testing and to show his support for the 100,000 people living with the virus in the UK.
He was participating in a parliamentary event on Monday, organised by the ‘Halve It’ campaign, which saw MPs come together to pledge support for efforts to halt the spread of HIV.
Mr Durkan said: “I am delighted to support World Aids Day and this important campaign which aims to halve the proportion of people diagnosed late with HIV.
“Around a quarter of people who have HIV are still undiagnosed and thus far more likely to pass the virus on. I would therefore encourage those most at risk to take a test.
“It is fast and simple – and one of the best weapons we have to stop the spread of HIV.
Around a quarter of people who have HIV are still undiagnosed and thus far more likely to pass the virus on. I would therefore encourage those most at risk to take a test.Foyle SDLP MP Mark Durkan
“Indeed, early testing of HIV not only saves lives but also results in substantial savings to the public health budget.”
In the UK, an estimated 103,700 people live with HIV every day of the year.
Of these, 17% are undiagnosed and 40% are diagnosed late.
The sooner HIV is diagnosed the sooner appropriate care can begin, and thanks to medical advancements the life expectancy of someone living with HIV has increased markedly in recent years.
By ensuring that HIV testing becomes routine there will be significant long-term savings; NICE estimates that if testing guidance was implemented fully, 3,500 cases of onward transmission could be prevented within five years, saving the NHS £18 million per year in treatment costs.
Halve It is a national campaign that focuses on the expansion of HIV testing services, on the basis that early testing of HIV saves lives and also results in substantial savings to the public health budget.
Since its inception in 2010, Halve It and its members have galvanised national and local cross-party support for HIV testing, most recently with the passing of a council resolution on HIV testing in many local authorities with a high prevalence of HIV.