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MPs from across all parties take HIV test to challenge stigma

Rennett Stowe via Flickr

In a bid to promote awareness for National HIV Testing Week – which took place last week – various MPs from across several parties have taken a HIV test in order to challenge the stigma surrounding the disease.

Some of the MPs who took part in the test were Home Secretary Amber Rudd, the Green’s co-leader Caroline Lucas, Public Health Minister Steve Brine, former Shadow Women and Equalities Secretary Sarah Champion, Labour MPs Liz Kendall, Lilian Greenwood and Gareth Snell and Conservative MP Tom Pursglove.

Related: Exclusive: Home Secretary Amber Rudd announces extra £300,000 to tackle hate crime

The aim of National HIV Testing Week is to tackle the stigma surrounding the disease.

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

However, recent figures have shown that HIV rates have dropped. Last year, there were 1,292 new HIV diagnoses in gay and bisexual men, and positivity rates in new diagnoses fell by 29% from 1.7% in 2015 to 1.2%.

Other MPs who have signed to take the test are Labour’s Peter Kyle, Ian Austin, Thangam Debbonaire, Tracy Brabin, Thelma Walker, Ruth Cadbury, and Alex Norris and the Conservative MPs Stuart Andrew and Stephen Hammond.

After the test, Amber Rudd tweeted: “Despite the look on my face, the pain wasn’t that bad! Just took an HIV test with THTorguk to raise awareness for #HIVTestWeek.”

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Meanwhile, 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.”

And 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.”

Liam Beattie, the Campaigns and Parliamentary Officer for the Terence Higgins Trust praised the MPs, saying: “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 MPs aren’t the only high-profile people to have gotten HIV tests to challenge stigma, as last year Prince Harry took one live on the Royal Family’s Facebook page.

Related: Prince Harry says people should go and get tested for HIV in memory of Princess Diana

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