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LONDON ELECTION CANDIDATES URGED TO TACKLE HIV AS NUMBERS IN THE CAPITAL CONTINUE TO INCREASE.

Monday, April 7, 2014

A LEADING HIV charity is calling on London’s councillors and political groups to tackle the high rates of HIV in their boroughs and improve support services for the growing number of people living with HIV, in the lead up to May elections.

London is home to almost half (42%) of the total of 98,400 people who are living with HIV in the UK. Currently, all but one London borough (Havering) are classed as ‘high prevalence’, meaning they have at least two people in every 1,000 living with diagnosed HIV.

Lambeth has the highest rates of diagnosed HIV in the whole of the UK, with one in every 69 people living with the virus, followed by Southwark, one in 82, and Kensington and Chelsea, one in 109. UK-wide, the figure is one in 546.[1][2]

Half of London boroughs (17) perform worse than the England average when it comes to diagnosing HIV in time. In Bexley, nearly 64% of people living with HIV are diagnosed late, meaning they have had the virus for at least four years, followed by 61% in Redbridge, and 58% in Croydon. This is significantly higher than the England average, which stands at 48%.[3]

Late diagnosis can mean worse health outcomes, a decreased life expectancy and a greater chance of passing the virus on.  People diagnosed late also have an eleven-fold increased risk of death within one year of HIV diagnosis compared to those diagnosed promptly.

Yusef Azad, Director of Policy and Campaigns at NAT (National AIDS Trust) says: “London has from the start of the epidemic been the part of the UK most severely affected by HIV, yet over half of London boroughs still struggle to diagnose people living with the virus on time.

“Reducing the late diagnosis of HIV is a key public health responsibility for local councils[4] and so these elections represent a real opportunity for councillors and political groups to tackle HIV in the capital.

“We are urging local candidates, if elected, to invest in HIV prevention services, show leadership on testing and fund and commission local HIV support services. Disinvestment in HIV prevention and testing would seriously harm public health, especially in a city like London, and will cost councils and the NHS in the long term.

“The May 2014 elections will be the first to take place since local authorities regained their responsibility for public health – now councillors and political groups can make a lasting difference to the lives of people with HIV, those at a higher risk of contracting the virus and the generations to come.”

NAT is asking people living with HIV in London and those who are concerned about HIV to get behind the campaign and write to their local councillors and election candidates asking them to commit to tackling HIV in their communities.

NAT has created Twitter hashtags #HIVMatters and #LDNMay2014 to encourage people to spread the word about the campaign. More information can be found on http://act.lifewithhiv.org.uk/lobby/HIVMatters2014.

Notes to the editor:

For further information and interviews,  please contact:

Anna Galandzij, press officer (temp), NAT, 020 7814 6724, anna.galandzij@nat.org.uk

Suzi Price, communications manager, NAT, 020 7814 6733, press@nat.org.uk

About NAT

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. www.nat.org.uk

Shaping attitudes. Challenging injustice. Changing lives.

NAT has written to every council leader, elected Mayor and leading opposition councillor in each of London's 32 boroughs asking them and their political groups to commit to the following promises ahead of the local elections:

  • Invest in local HIV prevention services tailored to meet local needs - in addition to pan-London prevention campaigns and nationally funded campaigns targeted at high risk communities.
  • Show local leadership on HIV testing - by increasing testing and reducing late diagnoses - through expanding testing beyond sexual health services to community settings, hospitals and GP surgeries as set out in national testing guidelines.²
  • Fund and commission local HIV support services.

[1] This excludes the number of people living with undiagnosed HIV, which stands at 22% across the UK.

[2]http://profiles.hpa.org.uk/IAS/dataviews/report/fullpage?viewId=42&repor...

[3]http://profiles.hpa.org.uk/IAS/dataviews/report/fullpage?viewId=42&repor...

[4] Department of Health, 'Public Health Outcomes Framework 2013 to 2016' https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/healthy-lives-healthy-people-...