In the UK, gay and bisexual men remain one of the groups most affected by HIV. However, more than a quarter of men with HIV are undiagnosed and therefore at risk of serious health problems. Someone who is diagnosed late, after the point at which they should have started treatment, is ten times more likely to die within a year of receiving their diagnosis than someone who tests in good time. In addition, undiagnosed HIV is a key factor driving the HIV epidemic, with the majority of onward transmission coming from those who are unaware that they have the infection.
Paul Ward, Deputy Chief Executive at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “It may sound strange, but – to drive HIV infections down – we need first to see new diagnoses come up. Currently it’s estimated that there are 25,000 people with undiagnosed HIV in this country, a large proportion of them gay men. It is these undiagnosed infections that are driving the UK’s epidemic, as someone who is tested and on treatment is far less likely to pass the virus on than someone who is unaware of their status.
“We have started to see a renewed emphasis on testing across the gay scene, with venue owners and other gay businesses joining the fight. Sustained momentum on this is vital, and community initiatives like National HIV Testing Week can also hammer home the message that gay and bi men should be testing for HIV at least once every year. Each of us has a basic responsibility to know our HIV status, and to do everything we can to protect ourselves and our partners from infection.”
National HIV Testing Week runs from 23rd – 30th November. It is being co-ordinated by Terrence Higgins Trust through HIV Prevention England, a partnership of community organisations funded by the Department of Health to carry out national HIV prevention work in England among communities at an increased risk of infection. For further information, visit www.tht.org.uk/HIVtestingweek.
Other national findings:
6,280 people were diagnosed with HIV in 2011, a 1% decrease on the previous year.
Nearly half (47%) of those people were diagnosed late, after a point at which they should have started treatment.
500 people with HIV died in 2011.
48% of new diagnoses in 2011 were among gay and bisexual men, and 79% of those infections were acquired in the UK.
73,660 people in the UK accessed HIV care in 2011, an increase of 6% on 2010 and more than a threefold increase since 2000.