Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Public Health England increase estimates of the number of heterosexuals living with undiagnosed HIV in the UK.

The Report published today from Public Health England (PHE) ‘HIV in the United Kingdom – 2014 Report’ finds that in 2013[1] a quarter (24%) of people living with HIV in the UK (107,800) were unaware they have it[2]. 

Undiagnosed rates of HIV among heterosexuals, at 31% (18,200), are higher than previously thought – in 2012 PHE had estimated that 27% of heterosexuals with HIV in the UK were undiagnosed.  This year PHE are using a new approach to calculating undiagnosed HIV in this population, which has indicated rates are higher than previously thought.

Amongst gay men with HIV, 16% (7,200) were unaware of their HIV positive status. 

Undiagnosed HIV is a serious public health issue – those undiagnosed are less able to protect their sexual partners from risk of HIV transmission.  Those undiagnosed for any length of time risk being diagnosed late which can mean HIV treatment is less effective and lifespan reduced (with risk of early death for those diagnosed very late). 

Reductions in the proportion of people diagnosed late[3] between 2012 and 2013 – from 47% to 42% (and from 57% in 2004) - show we have made some progress as a result of concerted efforts across communities and the health system.  It underlines how the current and ongoing high rates of undiagnosed HIV can be reduced with enough political will.


The 2014 report also states that in 2013 there was the highest ever number of gay men diagnosed with HIV – 3,250, the equivalent of 9 gay men receiving a positive HIV diagnosis every day.  PHE sees no evidence of a decline in the rate with which gay men are getting HIV in the UK.


Deborah Gold, chief executive of NAT (National AIDS Trust), said: “Whilst we have passed the 100,000 mark for the number of people living with HIV in the UK, there is a dangerous complacency in our society about the challenge of HIV.  The high rates of undiagnosed HIV are unacceptable but we are failing across the NHS and in the community consistently to offer HIV tests to those who need them, especially heterosexual men and women.  Progress is possible but there is still an immense amount to do to get everyone with HIV diagnosed in good time and meet the UN 90-90-90 target of just 10% undiagnosed.”

The same complacency can be seen in the lack of action and investment in gay men’s HIV prevention.  Funding from local authorities is patchy and in many places non-existent.  We are taking far too long to get new prevention options like PrEP[4] to the gay men who need them.  We lack a strategy for HIV across the UK and as a result there is no vision as to how to make progress.  The result is stagnation in our response.”

[1] The 2014 report provides data on 2013

[2] These are estimates based on modelling – see the PHE Report for confidence intervals

[3] Late diagnosis is defined as being diagnosed after the point when you should have started HIV medication (that point is measured by the decline in one’s immune system)

Notes to the editor:

The full report is here and the press release from PHE is here.

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.

For further information please contact:

Suzi Price, Communications Manager, NAT
020 7814 6733

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