THT says regular testing can halt the spread of HIV, as HPA releases annual HIV figures
Thursday 29 November 2012
Timed to coincide with England’s first ever National HIV Testing Week, new figures released today by the Health Protection Agency (HPA) show there were 96,000 people living with HIV in 2011, a quarter of whom were undiagnosed and unaware they have the infection.
In the UK, gay and bisexual men and African communities remain the groups most affected by HIV. However, more than a quarter of those with HIV in these groups are undiagnosed and therefore at risk of serious health problems. Someone who is diagnosed late, after the point at which they should have started treatment, is ten times more likely to die within a year of receiving their diagnosis than someone who tests in good time. In addition, undiagnosed HIV is a key factor driving the UK’s HIV epidemic, with the majority of onward transmission coming from those who are unaware that they have the infection.
Sir Nick Partridge, Chief Executive at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “HIV is an entirely preventable condition, yet each year we see thousands more people across the UK receive this life-changing diagnosis. While there is still no cure and no vaccine, that doesn’t mean we need to accept its continuing march. Reducing undiagnosed HIV by encouraging those in high-risk groups to test more regularly is one way we can put the brakes on the spread of infection. A simple HIV test, offered free at clinics and testing services all over the country, might add over 40 years to the life of someone with HIV, diagnosed in good time. Knowing your status also helps you protect your partners in the future.
“Thirty years on from the start of the epidemic, public understanding of HIV has dropped to a worrying level. As a result, we are starting to see a significant increase in the number of heterosexuals acquiring the virus in the UK. It is important that everyone, no matter their age or background, understands that nobody is immune from infection. We all have a responsibility to get our understanding of the virus up to a basic level, and know how to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe.”
National HIV Testing Week runs from 23rd – 30th November. It is being co-ordinated by Terrence Higgins Trust through HIV Prevention England, a partnership of community organisations funded by the Department of Health to carry out national HIV prevention work in England among communities at an increased risk of infection. For further information, visit www.tht.org.uk/HIVtestingweek.
Other national findings:
• 6,280 people were diagnosed with HIV in 2011, a 1% decrease on the previous year.
• Nearly half (47%) of those people were diagnosed late, after a point at which they should have started treatment.
• 500 people with HIV died in 2011.
• 48% of new diagnoses in 2011 were among heterosexuals, and 52% of those infections were acquired in the UK.
• 73,660 people in the UK accessed HIV care in 2011, an increase of 6% on 2010 and more than a threefold increase since 2000.