New statistics from Public Health England (PHE) show that 98,400 people were living with HIV in UK at the end of 2012. The figures point to ongoing failures of frontline health services to support at-risk groups through regular HIV testing.
Over one in five people living with HIV remain undiagnosed and almost half are diagnosed late, meaning they have usually been living with the virus for over four years.
Deborah Jack says: “Encouragingly we are continuing to see a downward trend in the rates of undiagnosed HIV. However the UK is currently failing to make progress in bringing down the unacceptable levels of late diagnosed HIV – which remain at 47%.
“We know at least half of new transmissions originate from people who don't know they have HIV. As long as we have high levels of undiagnosed HIV we will have high levels of new transmission.”
The report also highlights the continuing public health scandal of especially high levels of late diagnoses amongst African communities in the UK - 64% of African men and 61% of African women are diagnosed late. This can have devastating consequences for their health, as well as meaning it is more likely they will unwittingly pass the virus on.
The report shows despite clear national guidelines recommending GPs and hospitals in areas with high rates of HIV routinely offer tests to all new GP registrants and general medical admissions to hospitals, most are failing to do so. At the same time it was found sexual health clinics failed to offer a test to one-fifth of people attending their services.
Deborah Jack says: "We know there is a really good uptake when people are offered a test, 98% of women accept an HIV test when offered in an ante-natal setting and 94% of gay and bisexual men take up the test when it's offered to them at STI clinics. Yet despite clear guidance HIV tests are not being routinely offered.
"In April 2012 local councils were given the responsibility for HIV prevention and testing. These figures are a wake-up call. Local councils must urgently address how and where HIV testing is offered in their local area. This must include requiring sexual health clinics to always offer an HIV test to undiagnosed clinic attendees. Unless they do so we will continue to see the numbers of HIV diagnoses rise."
Notes to the editor:
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.
Shaping attitudes. Challenging injustice. Changing lives.
www.lifewithHIV.org – a resource for HIV positive people
www.HIVaware.org.uk – what everyone should know about HIV