28/11/2013 - Permalink

National HIV Testing Week aims to reach 25,000 people living with undiagnosed HIV

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News from our partners Public Health England

According to a new Public Health England (PHE) report, published to link in with this week’s National HIV Testing Week, over 100,000 people are now living with HIV in the UK – around a quarter of whom are undiagnosed.  In 2012, around half (47 per cent) of the 6,360 people newly diagnosed with HIV were identified late.  New HIV diagnoses among men who have sex with men (MSM) hit an all-time high of 3,250 cases in 2012. 

Importantly, nowadays early diagnosis and timely treatment can mean a near-normal lifespan for someone with HIV.  That’s why National HIV Testing Week (22-29 November) is important, raising awareness of the benefits of testing and encouraging the people most at risk, MSM and black Africans, to get tested. 

Professor Kevin Fenton, PHE’s Health and Well-being Director, said:

“National HIV Testing Week is a great opportunity to alert people to the benefits of testing for individuals, and for the UK’s public health.  PHE is urging the public, clinicians, commissioners and community leaders to support and engage with the campaign.” 

Dr Valerie Delpech, head of PHE’s HIV surveillance team, added:

“In the UK, people who are unaware of their infection are likely to be those most at risk of transmitting HIV to others.  Increasing condom use, early diagnosis, high HIV treatment levels and promoting treatment adherence will all help reduce new HIV infections across the UK.  However, to make a significant impact on the epidemic, we must reduce the numbers of HIV undiagnosed infections by encouraging earlier and more frequent HIV testing.” 

National guidelines recommend that HIV testing should be offered routinely to everyone admitted to hospital and people registering with a GP surgery in areas of the country with a prevalence >2:1000 people.  Introducing additional ways to test, such as home-sampling kits, may also encourage more people to test. 

You can significantly reduce the risk of getting or transmitting HIV by:

  • Get screened regularly if you are in one of the higher risk groups:
    • Men who have sex with men should have an HIV and STI screen at least annually, and every three months if having unprotected sex with new or casual partners.
    • People from black African communities should have an HIV test, and a regular HIV and STI screen if having unprotected sex with new or casual partners.
  • Always using a condom correctly and consistently when having sex, until all partners have had a sexual health screen.
  • Avoiding overlapping sexual relationships and reducing the number of sexual partners. 

Further information 

  1. The full ‘HIV in the UK’ 2013 report can be accessed on the PHE website.  Additional key findings include:
  • Overall prevalence was 1.5 per 1,000 population with the highest rates reported among men who have sex with men (MSM) (47 per 1,000) and the black African community (37 per 1,000).
  • Heterosexual acquisition accounted for 45% of all those diagnosed with new HIV infections in 2012 (2,581). Of these people, over half (XX%) probably acquired their infection in the UK, compared to 27% in 2002.
  • The proportion of people with a late diagnosis of HIV (CD4 cell count <350 cells/mm3) is declining slowly, from XX (n) to XX% (n). However, the absolute number remains the same, with approximately XX per year.
  • 88% of people with HIV for whom treatment was indicated were receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART) in 2011. Importantly, 87% of people receiving HIV care have a fully supressed HIV viral load, meaning they are unlikely to be infectious. 

More information on National HIV Testing Week can be found here

Public Health England’s mission is to protect and improve the nation’s health and to address inequalities through working with national and local government, the NHS, industry and the voluntary and community sector. PHE is an operationally autonomous executive agency of the Department of Health. www.gov.uk/phe Follow us on Twitter @PHE_uk.