Keeping it in the room: health, happiness and living in Berlin
The number of people living with HIV in the UK has reached a record high, at 110,000, according to a new report from Public Health England. Around a quarter of these (26,100) are unaware of their infection and at risk of passing on the virus to others through unprotected sex.
However, the report adds that proportion of people diagnosed with a late stage of HIV infection fell from 57 per cent in 2004 to 42 per cent in 2013, meaning that many more people are testing regularly and receiving treatment and advice when they need it.
Around 6 per cent of gay and bisexual men are now living with HIV, rising to 13 per cent in London. In 2013, there were 3,250 newly diagnosed in 2013 – almost nine a day. This compares to around one in 360 of the UK population as a whole. Over a quarter of gay men who were diagnosed in 2013 had probably acquired HIV in the past six months. However, 16 per cent of gay men remain living with HIV undiagnosed.
Undiagnosed HIV is a serious public health issue – those undiagnosed are less able to protect their sexual partners from risk of HIV transmission. They are also unable to benefit from treatments which allow people living with HIV to live long and healthy lives.
Deborah Gold, Chief Executive of NAT (National AIDS Trust), said: ‘As we pass the 100,000 mark in the number of people living with HIV in the UK, there is in our society a dangerous complacency about the challenge of HIV. Rates of new infections among gay men show no signs of abating but funding for HIV prevention from local authorities is patchy and in many places non-existent. We are taking far too long to get new prevention options like PrEP 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. HIV is not over in the UK, and we must take action.’
The news comes just a few days before National Aids Day, on 1 December, and National HIV Testing Week, which this year takes place on from 22-30 November.
Cary James, Head of Health Improvement at Terrence Higgins Trust, said that explore every avenue must be explored to get even more gay and bisexual men testing more frequently. ‘National HIV Testing Week provides an opportune platform for this,’ he said, ‘so we’d encourage men to get behind the campaign and make a commitment to test.’
World Health Organisation modelling suggests that, if countries can meet a target of 90-90-90 by 2020 – 90 per cent of people with HIV diagnosed, 90 per cent of those diagnosed on treatment, and 90 per cent of those on treatment having an undetectable viral load and therefore non-infectious – they can dramatically reduce the spread of infection by 2030. The UK is closer to this target than any other country in the world, according to the new report, with with 76 per cent diagnosed (rising to 84 per cent among men who have sex with men), 90 per cent of those diagnosed on treatment, and 90 per cent of those on treatment non-infectious.
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