Statement: National AIDS Trust response to needle stick injuries and misinformation on HIV
Deborah Gold, Chief Executive of National AIDS Trust, said:
“The reports about needle drug spiking incidents in the UK are deeply worrying and clearly merit urgent action and police attention. Our thoughts are with the people who have been victims of these crimes. The subsequent rumours and online misinformation that someone was diagnosed with HIV shortly after a needle injury are however clearly false and also very harmful. It takes time after a potential exposure to HIV for any infection to be developed enough to be picked up by a test. This is known as a window period. In the UK it is recommended that people wait 6 weeks after possible exposure to test for HIV. This ensures that those testing can be confident that any negative test is accurate.
“Getting HIV from a needle injury is extremely rare. There have been no confirmed cases of HIV infections from needle stick injuries in the UK since 1999, and whilst it is possible to acquire HIV by sharing unsterilised injecting equipment, in the UK the number of examples of this each year is very low. This is because the risk from needles is low, HIV is a fragile virus that cannot survive outside of the body for a long period, for example when dried out or in lower temperatures. Equally, even if a needle had been used by someone with HIV previously, it is important to understand that the vast majority of people now living with HIV in the UK cannot pass on the virus at all. Most people are on successful HIV treatment, meaning they have undetectable amounts of the virus in their body and they are completely unable to pass on the virus. We hope the facts about HIV can help quell some worries.
“If people do think they have been exposed to HIV in the past 72 hours (usually through unprotected vaginal/anal sex), they should go to an A&E or a sexual health clinic. It is possible to take a medication called PEP, which greatly reduces the risk of acquiring HIV.
“Stories like this are very unhelpful, in driving fear and perpetuating stigma about living with HIV. HIV is now a manageable long-term health condition, 97 per cent of those diagnosed and on treatment cannot pass on the virus. We know from recent public polling that there is a great misunderstanding about HIV, and how it can be passed on. It is important that information which is shared on social media and the press is accurate and does not perpetuate myths and stigma surrounding HIV.”
For more details please contact Joe Lester on email@example.com or 020 7814 6727
Notes to editors
About National AIDS Trust
We’re the UK’s HIV rights charity. We work to stop HIV from standing in the way of health, dignity and equality, and to end new HIV transmissions. Our expertise, research and advocacy secure lasting change to the lives of people living with and at risk of HIV.