Figures just out from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) reveal the number diagnoses of HIV transmission occurring in the UK remain high.
Overall diagnoses have declined for the fourth year running – going down to 6,630 in 2009 from 7,982 in 2005 – however the fall is due to fewer people being diagnosed here in the UK that were infected overseas. The 3,730 diagnoses of transmissions which occurred in the UK remain as high as previous years.
Deborah Jack, CEO of the National AIDS Trust, NAT said: “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 is calling for commitment to reduce the continuing stubbornly high numbers of people getting HIV in the UK. Prevention is an immensely cost-effective activity: one transmission can cost the NHS upwards of £360,000 over a person’s lifetime.”
The report reveals that 1,000 heterosexuals were diagnosed with HIV and infected in the UK. There were also 2,760 diagnoses amongst gay and bisexual men: one in six men diagnosed appear to have been infected a few months prior to their test, suggesting high rates of ongoing HIV transmission in the gay community.
Another worrying trend is that about half are being diagnosed late -after the point they should have started HIV treatment – putting their own health at risk and increasing the chance of transmitting the virus to sexual partners.
“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 per cent 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,” Jack added.