Home Secretary Amber Rudd takes an HIV test

Britain's Home Secretary Amber Rudd leaves 10 Downing Street after a pre-budget meeting of the cabinet in London, on November 22, 2017. Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond will present the government's annual Autumn budget to Parliament later on November 22. / AFP PHOTO / Ben STANSALL (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)

Home Secretary Amber Rudd is among MPs who tackled stigma about HIV – by taking the test themselves.

The Home Secretary was one of a number of MPs from across all parties to take HIV tests to promote National HIV Testing Week, alongside Britain’s leading HIV and sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust.

Ms Rudd was joined in taking tests by Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas, Public Health Minister Steve Brine, Labour’s former equalities chief Sarah Champion, former Labour leadership challenger Liz Kendall, as well as MPs Lilian Greenwood, Gareth Snell and Tom Pursglove.

Amber Rudd takes a test

The annual testing drive is aimed at tackling the stigma around HIV.

According to new Public Health England figures, roughly 10,700 people are living with undiagnosed HIV in the UK.

Regular HIV tests, particularly among at-risk groups, is important, as properly treating HIV is crucial to ending the epidemic.

Green co-leader Caroline Lucas takes a test

Other MPs who have signed up for tests include Stephen Hammond, Peter Kyle, Ian Austin, Thangham Debbonaire, Stuart Andrew, Tracy Brabin, Themla Walker, Ruth Cadbury and Alex Norris.

Prince Harry made international news last year when he took an HIV test, and has continued to campaign on the issue publicly – following in the footsteps of his mother, Princess Diana.

The figures from that show the drive to increase HIV testing is having an impact, with a 21.8 per cent drop in the number of people who are undiagnosed and do not know that they’re living with HIV.

Public Health Minister Steve Brine takes a test

Ms Rudd said: “Despite the look on my face, the pain wasn’t that bad! Just took an HIV test with Terrence Higgins Trust to raise awareness for HIV Testing Week.”

Labour’s Sarah Champion said: ‘While it’s encouraging to see some fantastic wins for HIV in England, but there’s still so much left to do to end stigma that surrounds HIV and affects the lives of people who live with it.

“I’m supporting National HIV Testing Week to encourage others to know the benefits of testing, and I stand by the side as an ally of all people living with HIV in the UK.’

Public Health Minister Steve Brine said: “As National HIV Testing Week begins I’m calling on the public to give the finger to HIV. Getting tested is vital, especially for those who may be at higher risk.

“We continue to work closely with PHE, NHSE and charities like Terrace Higgins Trust to dispel the stigma associated with HIV, and we are seeing results as rates of HIV infection are falling.”

Green MP Caroline Lucas said: “Knowing your HIV status is important, as it can help ensure early diagnoses and prevent transmission.

“I support National HIV Testing Week and will continue supporting Terrence Higgins Trust in ending the stigma that surrounds HIV and testing for it, and then eliminating it altogether.”

Hove MP Peter Kyle said: “HIV is a long-term manageable condition and the earlier the diagnosis, the better it is for the patient, so it’s important to get tested no matter who you are.

“The fear and stigma surrounding HIV is still a barrier to testing so I hope Ive shown today that having a test is fuss-free and easy and that I can help make the stigma and fear around HIV a thing of the

Labour’s Liz Kendall said: “It’s time that the stigma that surrounds HIV, and testing for HIV, ended.

“National HIV Testing Week is an important time to dispel the many myths that surround HIV and to encourage all people to know their status and regularly test.”

Liam Beattie, Campaigns and Parliamentary Officer, Terrence Higgins Trust said: “We’re delighted to have such fantastic cross-party support from MPs this National HIV Testing Week.

“While we’ve seen some major steps in HIV in recent years, the number of late diagnoses and undiagnosed people living with HIV is still a cause for concern.

“It’s vital that we enable people to feel empowered to test and know their status, and dispel the myths that surround testing for and living with HIV, which no doubt support from a number of prominent MPs will hugely help.”

The Home Secretary’s commitment to sexual health is not new. Ms Rudd once won £50 in a safe sex poetry competition.

The politician wrote for PinkNews earlier this year to mark Pride in London.

She said: “I am proud to be part of the Government that made equal marriage a reality set in law and I was honoured to have voted for it.

“But as much as there is to celebrate, as many people will know, we still have a long way to go. One person experiencing hate crime is one too many.

“That is why last year I launched my Hate Crime Action Plan which focuses on preventing hate crime, responding to it in our communities, increasing its reporting, improving support for victims and building our understanding.

“We have also awarded more than £300,000 in funding as part of a £900,000 three-year scheme to tackle hate crime, including LGBT+ charities. These charities, Galop and Stop Hate UK, are excellent examples of the support available to people affected by this terrible crime.”

Last week Prince Harry attended the opening of Terrence Higgins Trust’s HIV self test pop-up shop in Hackney, to launch National HIV Testing Week.

(Photo by Matt Dunham – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

His Royal Highness met with Andrew Bates, a young man who was diagnosed with HIV in 2015, who shared his story and talked about the importance of testing.

Prince Harry also met Yvette Twagiramariya, reporter and one of the faces of the It Starts With Me campaign, who took a live HIV test to show Prince Harry how the self tests work.

Before departing the shop, the Prince met and talked with some local Hackney residents, and gave each of them one of the self test kits to take home.

Ian Green, CEO, Terrence Higgins Trust said: “Incredible progress has been made to reduce HIV transmission and late diagnoses, and support people living with HIV, which would have been unimaginable even three or four years ago.

“However, we must not be complacent, and now is the time to double up on efforts and investment to ensure we can end all new cases of HIV in the UK and support people living with HIV to enjoy healthy, long lives. There is also still so much work to do to end the stigma that faces people living with HIV in the UK.”

Dr Valerie Delpech, Head of HIV Surveillance at Public Health England said: “This year, there are three firsts in the 30 year history of the UK HIV epidemic.

“In London, all the global UNAIDS 90:90:90 targets have been met with 90% of people living with HIV infection diagnosed, 97% of people diagnosed receiving treatment and 97% of those receiving treatment virally suppressed.

“HIV transmission among gay and bi men has fallen, and the death rate among people with HIV who are diagnosed promptly and on treatment is now comparable to the rest of the population.

“We celebrate these extraordinary achievements which are the result of a comprehensive response involving many key players and organisations .

“By continuing to invest in effective preventative measures including condom use, expanded HIV testing, prompt treatment and the use of PrEP, the elimination of HIV transmission, AIDS and HIV-related deaths could become a reality in the UK.”