Getting tested for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) has become incredibly easy thanks to innovations in the medical field — from a smartphone accessory to at-home testing that delivers 99.7 percent accuracy. So, why do people with the disease continue to go undiagnosed? A recent study conducted by researchers from the University of Royal Holloway London has found that fears over HIV and HIV testing often dissuade people from getting tested for HIV.

"Our research shows it is imperative that more is done to reduce the fear of HIV and HIV testing to increase the amount of people being tested," said Dr. Michael Evangeli, from the Department of Psychology at Royal Holloway, in a statement. "A test for HIV, which can now be done in private at home, is necessary to receive HIV treatment and care. The earlier this can be done helps to reduce the onward transmission of HIV. The fact that HIV is treatable needs to be stressed."

Evangeli and his colleagues conducted a systematic review of 62 studies on the relationship between psychological factors and HIV testing. Common psychological variables measured by the research team included perceived testing benefits, HIV knowledge, testing fear, perceived behavioral control/self-efficacy, risk perception, knowledge of testing sites, stigma, prejudiced attitudes toward people living with HIV, and knowing someone with HIV.

Researchers found that fears over HIV and HIV testing is one of the biggest barriers that stop people from getting tested. Half of the 35 million people with HIV had not been tested. Among more than 100,000 people with HIV in the UK, around 25,000 do not know they are infected. Not only are these people at risk to worsening their condition due to a lack of care and treatment, they also increase the risk for spreading the disease further.

Like all diseases, the earlier someone is tested and diagnosed for HIV, the earlier they can receive treatment and lower the severity of their condition. Unfortunately, young people between the ages of 13 and 24 who contract HIV, which represents one in four infections, are even less likely to get tested than adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 60 percent of America’s youth with HIV do not know they have it, which means they’re not getting treatment and they’re unknowingly passing it along.

Source: Evangeli M, Pady K, Wroe A. Which Psychological Factors are Related to HIV Testing? A Quantitative Systematic Review of Global Studies. AIDS and Behavior. 2015.