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World AIDS Day 2015: Getting to Zero

The theme for 2015 was chosen by a international group including UNAIDS who are working to reduce HIV across the world. Getting to Zero has been the strategy for the past five years – it's a laudable target but is it possible?

We do know that certain groups, black people and gay men in particular, have large numbers of people living with undiagnosed HIV within their communities (35% and 24% respectively). While these people are unaware and untreated the goal of getting to Zero is impossible to achieve.

This is a big problem not only for those who have sex with undiagnosed people, but mostly for those who are unaware they are HIV positive. Research clearly shows that the earlier a person starts HIV medication the healthier they will be. If HIV is undiagnosed and consequently untreated the virus will continue to multiply in numbers (this is known as an HIV positive person's viral load). HIV slowly damages and breaks down the immune system, only showing when you have to see a doctor who then searches for reasons for your illnesses.

The only way to know if you have HIV is to test and test regularly – at least once a year if you have a few sexual partners in a year and are practicing safer sex all the time. Test more often if you have many sexual partners or have risky sex. (Find out more about HIV sexual risk factors.)

Whatever negative reasons there are (or used to be) against testing, they are massively outweighed by benefits to your health and in turn to the health of others. It is only by everyone who is at risk of having HIV being tested that there is a chance of getting to Zero new infections. It is easy to do now, it is available free in sexual health clinics all over the country, from your GP and by post free in England and Scotland and there are paid tests available too. (See our page on HIV testing for more information.)

It's down to you and only you. 

GPs and Hospitals are beginning to introduce the subject of HIV testing more but until HIV testing is done routinely (something that is very slowly coming) those at most risk must take responsibility for getting themselves tested. 

Is Zero possible? Yes, we have good drugs to manage HIV, so in the long-term if everyone who is HIV positive is on medication that works for them and has an undetectable viral load, so reducing risk of transmission to sexual partners, is will be possible in time to dramatically reduce the number of people getting HIV and get close to Zero new infections. 

Help yourself and your community. Get tested.