NAT comments on Health Protection Agency report on HIV
UK still failing to tackle undiagnosed HIV
New figures from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) reveal the number of people living with HIV in the UK hit 96,000 in 2011, with 6,280 new diagnoses that year.
In 2011, there were an estimated 3,010 new diagnoses among gay men*, which is the highest annual figure since records began. Just under half (48%) of people diagnosed with HIV in the same period were heterosexuals (predominantly African men and women).
Nearly a quarter of people with HIV (24%) remain unaware of their infection and the proportion of late** diagnoses remains worryingly high at 47%. There has been a modest fall since 2010 (from 50%) but this remains a significant public health challenge. Heterosexual men remain the most likely group to be diagnosed late at 64% (rising slightly to 68% among black African men), followed by 56% of heterosexual women (rising to 61% among black African women). This compares to 35% of gay men diagnosed late.
New analysis shows the annual proportion of diagnosed HIV infections amongst heterosexuals which were acquired within the UK, has almost doubled over the past decade (from 27% in 2002 to over half in 2011). This now exceeding the proportion acquired abroad.
Deborah Jack, Chief Executive of NAT (National AIDS Trust), comments:
‘What is striking about the HPA’s data, is how it really shows both our successes and our shortcomings in tackling HIV in the UK. On the one hand, we can hail treatment as a real success story. Treatment is effective, people diagnosed with HIV can access it easily and it is working in keeping the virus under control. However, when it comes to increasing the uptake of testing – the gateway to treatment – our services are patchy, inconsistent and ultimately we are still failing to make any significant headway in tackling the high rates of undiagnosed HIV.
‘A quarter of people living with HIV are unaware they have the virus. As long as this figure remains high, new infections will continue to occur. We must increase our efforts in encouraging people to test and making sure that the health service is taking advantage of every single avenue in offering an opportunity to test – something that isn’t happening at the moment.
'We are seeing, very clearly, huge inequalities in accessing HIV tests. The rates of late diagnosis among African men and women are shockingly high – especially when compared with gay men (68% and 61% versus 35%, respectively). It is clear that action must be taken. We know that African people are three times more likely to be diagnosed through their GP than a sexual health clinic. Yet by mid 2011 – three years after the UK National HIV Testing Guidelines were launched – only 31% of Primary Care Trusts had commissioned HIV testing for GP new registrants in high prevalence areas. When the NHS changes take place in April 2013, we must ensure local councils use this opportunity to step up to the challenge and bring about change.’
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Notes to the editor:
The HPA’s full report ‘HIV in the United Kingdom: 2012’ can be downloaded here.
For detailed questions about the data, please contact the HPA press office at Colindale on 0208 327 7901 or email Colindalefirstname.lastname@example.org. Out of hours: 0208 200 4400.
For further information please contact:
020 7814 6733
NAT (National AIDS Trust) is the UK’s leading charity dedicated to transforming society’s response to HIV. We provide fresh thinking, expertise and practical resources. We champion the rights of people living with HIV and campaign for change.
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