HIV research increases number of people coming forward for testing

17 August 2015

A study by Canterbury Christ Church University shows that targeted public health, social media and educational interventions for healthcare professionals increase the number and timeliness of HIV tests in those at risk of infection in Kent and Medway.

An international study completed by staff at Canterbury Christ Church University with colleagues from Kent County Council and NHS partners in Kent and Medway has demonstrated that targeted public health, social media and improved training for healthcare professionals can increase the number and timeliness of HIV tests undertaken by those at risk of infection in the region.

The findings of the Interreg IVA Channel Programme funded research project designed to target the late testing and diagnosis of HIV in Kent, Medway and Picardy in northern France showed positive outcomes in each of the areas covered by the study in comparison to baseline data collected in the same period during the previous year.

The number of HIV tests undertaken in a five month period by NHS laboratories between 1st October 2014 and the 28th February 2015 increased by 1,946 or 7.8% in Kent and Medway from 24,874 tests to 26,821 tests in comparison with the same period in 2013/14. Percentage increases varied from 4.4% for the wide area covered by Kent Community Health Foundation Trust to 13.9% for Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust with Medway Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust showing an increase of 7.6%.

The increase in the number of tests conducted was attributed to a threefold strategy including the conduct of a parallel public health and social media campaign which included the display of posters and leaflets carrying the project’s ‘ It’s better to know your HIV status’ motto, a series of prime-time discussion programmes and broadcasts on local radio and television stations highlighting the benefits of early HIV testing; and a designated Facebook and Twitter account based on Kent County Council’s Public Health webpages alerting people to local testing and screening opportunities in their area.

Overall, results in the UK were much better than those in Picardy in France, where a national campaign to increase the number and timeliness of HIV testing has been in place for a number of years, but even here, improvements were seen in the number of people attending private high street laboratories or testing centres belonging to the French HIV charity AIDES.

HIV research increases number of people coming forward for testing

Dr Stephen O'Connor

Dr Stephen O’Connor, Reader in the School of Nursing at Canterbury Christ Church University, said: “This project, and its subsequent results, has been a valuable exercise as it has shown that we can improve the health outcomes for patients with HIV via earlier diagnosis and treatment.

“Around half of all patients diagnosed HIV positive in Kent and Medway are diagnosed at a late stage. If someone is diagnosed a long time after they have been infected with HIV, it is more likely that the virus will have already seriously damaged their immune system. Late diagnosis is one of the biggest contributing factors to illness and death for people with HIV. Early diagnosis is important so people can start treatment if they need to, look after their own health and take steps to ensure they don’t pass the virus on.”

Copies of the final report of the study can be found on Canterbury Christ Church University’s research repository CReaTE .

In addition, a copy of the short video developed by clinicians working on the project about the indicators for and benefits of an early HIV test can be found on Vimeo .

Further projects are now being planned to reduce sexual risk taking behaviours in relation to specific client groups identified by the study and thus prevent infection with HIV in the first place.

Notes to Editor

Improving Access to Sexual Health (IMPRESS HEALTH 2) project was funded by EU Interreg IVA France (Channel) – England programme. It was conducted in the UK by Canterbury Christ Church University with NHS Health and Europe Centre, Kent County Council, Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust, Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust and the Medway NHS Foundation Trust during April 2013 – April 2015. The project website can be found here: Project Website:

An HIV testing ‘roadshow’ conducted by the HIV charity METRO on behalf of the project using the region’s well known fleet of converted ‘blue buses’ in November 2014 resulted in an additional 198 rapid HIV tests being conducted in supermarket car parks, high streets and train stations around the region, 70.2% of which were conducted on white British residents, 13.1% on other European nationals, and 8.6% on black Africans. The majority (82.3%) of those seeking a rapid HIV test in the roadshow campaign were heterosexual followed by bisexuals (8.6%) and exclusively gay men (6.6%). Forty percent (80 people) of those tested had engaged in unprotected sexual intercourse with 2 or more partners in previous 12 months whilst 31% (61 people) had done so with a new sexual partner in the last 3 months whilst 57 (29%) had a sexual partner from outside the UK. Only 13% (6.5%) admitted to buying or selling sex in the last 12 months whereas 22 (11%) of those seeking a test at the roadshow had slept with someone they knew to be at risk of HIV without taking adequate precautions.  

An education programme designed to raise awareness about indications for an HIV test was designed and delivered to over 200 GPs and healthcare professionals in the region in the autumn of 2014 and is accredited with an increase in the number of GPs discussing the need for an HIV with their patients since the original study was concluded.

Canterbury Christ Church University

Canterbury Christ Church University is a modern university with a particular strength in higher education for the public services.

With almost 18,000 students across Kent and Medway, its courses span a wide range of academic and professional subject areas.

  • 97% of our UK graduates were in employment or further studies six months after completing their studies*.
  • We are the number one choice for local people looking to study at university in Kent (2013 UCAS).
  • We are one of the South East’s largest providers of education, training and skills leading to public service careers.

*2012/13 Destination of Leavers from Higher Education survey


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Last edited: 05/12/2017 02:48:00