THE LOCKDOWN sex ban could “help eradicate HIV” in the UK as more people continue to abstain from sex outside their household.
The government announced a new law on 1 June that makes it illegal for people to leave their households to have sex at the property of another person.
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New research from sexual health clinic 56 Dean Street has revealed that 84 per cent of people are already abstaining from sex outside of their household because of the pandemic, and that many remain apprehensive about the prospect of a casual encounter.
So far in the UK over 39,000 people have died from Covid-19 and the new data suggests that the lockdown is having a huge impact in the fight against HIV.
HIV charity Terrence Higgins Trust and 56 Dean Street have now launched a push for more people to get tested for HIV while in lockdown.
The research was compiled from the views of 800 people and found that 8 in 10 are continuing to forgo meeting up for casual sex.
This is while 1 in 5 said they were not sure if this is something they would do again as the coronavirus lockdown enters its third month.
It also found that prior to the coronavirus lockdown 42 per cent of adults would have one sexual partner a month while 35 per cent would have between two and five partners.
Dr Alan McOwan, lead clinician at 56 Dean Street had previously highlighted that the coronavirus lockdown is a great opportunity for people to get tested and said that people were no longer having casual hookups and therefore HIV was no longer being spread.
The research found that 57 per cent of people were no longer meeting up for sex due to the government's guidance on stopping the spread of Covid-19.
This is while six per cent said they were avoiding sex outside their household in order to avoid catching HIV.
The Terrence Higgins Trust has highlighted that time is of the essence when it comes to testing for HIV and said that anyone who hasn’t had sex outside the home since before lockdown will get an accurate test result.
This is due to the fact that it can take up to a month from potential HIV exposure to show up on a test.
What are the symptoms of HIV?
Most infected people experience a short illness, similar to flu, two to six weeks after coming into contact with HIV.
These symptoms, which 80 per cent of infected people experience, are a sign that their body is trying to fight HIV. They include:
- Sore throat
- Body rash
- Joint and/or muscle pain
- Swollen glands
After this illness, which normally lasts one to two weeks, HIV sufferers will have no symptoms for up to 10 years – during which time they will look and feel well.
However, the virus will continue to cause progressive damage to a person's immune system.
Only once the immune system is already severely damaged will the person show new symptoms. These include:
- Weight loss
- Chronic diarrhoea
- Night sweats
- Skin problems
- Recurrent infections
- Serious, life-threatening illnesses
Tests can be obtained through the post and if you test positive you will be able to get the treatment you need in order to stop HIV being passed on to others.
Most councils in England offer free HIV kits and 56 Dean Street is also sending them out.
The Terrence Higgins Trust is also filling any gaps across the UK by offering free tests for the next two weeks.
In order to obtain your kit at home you have to fill out a short questionnaire which will determine what test best suits your needs.
A box containing the sample kit will then arrive in 2-3 working days. Once you receive your kit you need to take the test and send it back through the post.
The results will then be received via text message.
Pharmacies also sell the kits and they are available to purchase from £15 to £31.
Chief Executive of Terrence Higgins Trust, Ian Green said: "This is an incredible opportunity to break the chain on HIV infection and help move us further forward in achieving our goal of ending HIV transmissions in the UK within the next decade. National HIV Testing Week is every November, but we need to act now because this chance won’t wait and won’t come around again.
"It’s estimated that around 7,500 people in the UK are living with undiagnosed HIV, which is bad for their health and means they may unwittingly pass it on. 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."
Dr McOwan added that now is the time to get tested with fewer people hooking up for sex.
“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.
"Testing yourself for HIV is quick and easy, and postal tests arrive in plain packaging. Visit our Test Now, Stop HIV website to find out all the information and get tested.
"Testing is so important because once you know your status, you can take steps to stay HIV negative with condoms, regular testing and PrEP. Or, if you get a positive diagnosis, you can access the treatment you need to stay well and stop HIV from being passed on."
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