UK HIV diagnoses - still high, still late
New figures on HIV from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) reveal the number of diagnoses of HIV transmission occurring in the UK remain high, with no indication as yet of a decline.
Whilst overall diagnoses have declined for the fourth year running (going down to 6,630 in 2009 from 7,982 in 2005), this decrease is due to fewer diagnoses amongst those who were infected overseas. The 3,730 diagnoses of transmissions which occurred in the UK remain as high as previous years.
The report reveals that 1,000 heterosexuals were diagnosed with HIV who were infected in the UK. There were also 2,760 diagnoses amongst gay and bisexual men and, worryingly, one in six of those diagnosed appear to have been infected a few months prior to their test, suggesting high rates of ongoing HIV transmission in the gay community.
Not only is the number people being diagnosed with HIV still too high, just over half (52%) are being diagnosed after the point at which they should have started HIV treatment. In most instances this means they are likely to have had HIV for a number of years, with a high risk of transmission to sexual partners. Such late diagnosis can also reduce the effectiveness of treatment.
Deborah Jack, Chief Executive of NAT (National AIDS Trust), comments:
'The latest HIV figures underline the need for us to do more in both HIV prevention and HIV testing. As the Government prepares its Public Health White Paper, NAT are calling for commitment to reduce the continuing stubbornly high numbers of people getting HIV in the UK. Prevention is an immensely cost-effective activity given the financial implications of even one HIV transmission is up to £360,000 in direct costs to the NHS over a person’s lifetime.
‘Another crucial step is for sexual health clinics to work on increasing the uptake of HIV tests amongst those who attend their services. The current uptake rate at 77% is still too low. But late diagnosis is a wider challenge to society - many people with HIV attend other NHS services repeatedly for years without being offered an HIV test and this neglect has to end. We need HIV testing to be normalised within our health system and people to be informed about the value of having an HIV test.'
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Notes to the editor:
The full report from the HPA can be found here:
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NAT (National AIDS Trust) is the UK’s leading charity dedicated to transforming society’s response to HIV. We provide fresh thinking, expert advice and practical resources. We campaign for change.
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