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Knowledge gap regarding HIV transmission and testing in Wales

Published: 1 December 2023

The latest Time to Talk Public Health survey from Public Health Wales has shed light on gaps in understanding about HIV transmission and testing.  

Just 50 per cent of survey respondents were aware that a person on effective treatment living with HIV cannot pass on the virus. 

This is despite respondents reporting an overall sense of confidence in their knowledge about the virus, with 74 per cent saying they were fairly (60 per cent) or very (14 per cent) knowledgeable about HIV.  

Encouragingly, 84 per cent of participants agreed (25 per cent strongly agreed) that they felt they could talk to a healthcare professional about doing a HIV test if they wanted to, indicating a positive attitude towards seeking testing and care.   

This finding emphasises the importance of destigmatising HIV testing and promoting it as a routine aspect of healthcare. 

When asked about home testing, 52 per cent of respondents were unaware that anyone aged 16 and over in Wales can get a free, confidential HIV home test kit. 

43 per cent knew there is a medicine called PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) which people can take to stop them from getting HIV when taken as prescribed.  PrEP is highly effective at preventing HIV. 

The findings highlight a lack of awareness regarding HIV transmission and testing in Wales.    

Zoe Couzens, Sexual Health Programme Lead for Public Health Wales, said:  

"While it’s encouraging that a majority agreed they can talk to a healthcare professional about a HIV test, it's concerning that some misconceptions about HIV transmission persist - despite a majority of respondents feeling knowledgeable about the virus. This knowledge gap highlights the need to continue our efforts to ensure accurate information reaches the public. 

"Testing is a normal and essential part of healthcare. Advances in HIV treatments mean that anyone with HIV can live as long and well as anyone else. Timely testing and treatment can play a crucial role in controlling the spread of the virus as effective treatment reduces the amount of virus in the blood to undetectable levels, meaning HIV can’t be passed on to others." 

HIV is a virus that damages the immune system and weakens a person’s ability to fight everyday infections and disease. It can be transmitted through sexual contact or infected body fluids.  

For more information on HIV testing and resources available in Wales.

1,094 panel members responded to The Time to Talk Public Health survey conducted in October 2023 which asked residents of Wales (16+ years) their views on a range of health-related subjects. Unless stated otherwise, data are weighted to reflect national population demographics by age, sex and deprivation. 

If you are interested in joining the Time to Talk Public Health conversation, you can find more information and sign up here