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HIV Diagnoses Among Gay Men Continues to Rise in UK
 
 
  By UK Gay News | Article Date: 11/30/2008 12:00 AM
An estimated 77,400 people were living with HIV in the UK in 2007 with more than a quarter (28 percent) unaware of their infection, according to figures released this week by the Health Protection Agency.
 
This compares with the estimated 73,000 previously reported to be living with the infection (2006).
 
In 2007 there were 7,734 new diagnoses of HIV -- a similarly high figure to previous years (7,334 in 2006).
 
The estimated number of people infected through heterosexual contact within the UK has increased from 540 new diagnoses in 2003 to 960 in 2007, and has doubled, from 11 percent (540/4,800) in 2003 to 23 percent (960/4,260) in 2007, as a proportion of all heterosexual diagnoses during this period.
 
Diagnoses among gay men continue to increase with 3,160 men (41 percent of all new diagnoses) testing positive in 2007.
 
Almost a third (31 per cent) of individuals are being diagnosed with HIV late -- at a point after which therapy should have begun (CD4 cell count 3) -- which means that they are missing out on the benefits associated with early diagnosis including prolonged life expectancy.
 
"Diagnosing HIV infections earlier will reduce transmission of this infection as those unaware of their positive status pose a greater risk to future sexual partners," said Dr. Valerie Delpech, head of HIV surveillance at the Health Protection Agency's Centre for Infections.
 
"Late diagnosis also has a major impact on disease and life expectancy and it is vital that people are diagnosed early.
 
"It is very worrying that so many people remain unaware of their HIV status," she continued.
 
"Wider HIV testing in high prevalence areas of the UK is urgently needed to reduce the number of undiagnosed infections."
 
New national testing guidelines recommend wider HIV testing in those areas of the country where the prevalence of HIV infection is greatest. The guidelines say that health professionals should offer HIV testing to all men and women aged 15 to 59 who are:
 
registering in general practice or
admitted for medical care
These areas include London, parts of the South coast (inc. Brighton, Bournemouth, and Eastbourne), Manchester and Blackpool, where prevalence has historically been high.
 
Also included are areas that have experienced more recent increases including areas surrounding London such as Luton, Watford, Slough and Crawley, and Northampton, Nottingham and the Midlands.
 
"Access to testing must be made easier," Dr. Delpech insisted.
 
"We need to improve availability of HIV testing in a number of healthcare settings, including general practice, to improve diagnosis of this infection. Without this we will not see the reduction in transmission that we need to see, or a further fall in serious disease."
 
Commenting of the Health Protection Agency's annual report, Will Nutland, the strategic lead for Health Promotion and Health Improvement at Terrence Higgins Trust, said there was still an assumption among gay men who have had unprotected sex that they are HIV negative
 
"Thousands who make that assumption are mistaken," he said.
 
"A quarter of gay men with HIV don't know they have it -- so it's a dangerous mistake to make.
 
"We'e just launched a major new awareness campaign for gay men, 'THIVK you're negative?', and we --- and our partner organisations -- are going out into gay venues across the country to get the message across.
 
"For anyone wanting to take an HIV test, our Fastest clinics offer convenient opening times and rapid results," he pointed out.
 
Gay men who know their HIV status can safeguard their health and that of others.
 
If you would like to talk to someone confidentially about HIV or get details of testing clinics, call THT Direct on 0845 12 21 200.
 
2007 in numbers
 
- 32,000 gay men are living with HIV in the UK.
- An estimated 77,400 persons of all ages are living with HIV in the UK.
- This equates to a rate of 127 per 100,000 population.
- Among the 73,300 HIV infected individuals aged 15 - 59 years, 28 percent are unaware of infection (20,700 - estimated range16,300 to 25, 800]).
- 2007 saw 7,734 new diagnoses of HIV, a similarly high figure to the diagnoses made in the previous four years.
- 3,160 (41 per cent) were among gay men with the majority acquiring their infections in the UK.
- 4,260 (55 per cent) were acquired through heterosexual contact -- with the majority of cases probably infected abroad. Total diagnoses among heterosexuals have declined from their peak in 2004 (4,850) although those acquired within the UK are increasing from 11 per cent in 2003 (540/ 4,800) to 23 per cent in 2007 (960/ 4,260).
- 180 acquired through injecting drug use.
- 110 acquired through mother-to-child transmission.
Two reports have been published this week by the Health Protection Agency.
 
HIV in the United Kingdom: 2008 report
 
Sexually transmitted infections and men who have sex with men in the UK: 2008 report
 
Article courtesy of UK Gay News.
 
 
 
 
 
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