New figures on HIV issued by organisations such as the Health Protection Agency and Terrence Higgins Trust reveal that the number of diagnoses of HIV transmission occurring both in South West England and the rest of the UK remain high, with no indication as yet of a decline.
Whilst overall diagnoses have declined for the fourth year running (going down to 6,630 in 2009 from 7,982 in 2005), this decrease is due to fewer diagnoses amongst those who were infected overseas. The 3,730 diagnoses of transmissions which occurred in the UK remain as high as previous years.
New figures reveal that Bath and north east Somerset had the second highest rate of newly diagnosed HIV cases in the South West last year. The diagnosis rate in B&NES was 12.2 people per 100,000 population, a figure exceeded only by Bristol, where 13.5 people per 100,000 were diagnosed. The yearly diagnosis figure also rose in Wiltshire this year.
Deborah Jack, Chief Executive of NAT – The National AIDS Trust, 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 are calling for commitment to reduce the continuing stubbornly high numbers of people getting HIV in the UK. Prevention is an immensely cost-effective activity given the financial implications of even one HIV transmission is up to £360,000 in direct costs to the NHS over a person’s lifetime.”
“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% 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.” she continued.
NHS B&NES joint director of public health Dr Pamela Akerman said: “There is a degree of complacency in the public mind when it comes to HIV and Aids. Everyone should take measures to protect themselves by using a condom with a new sexual partner, or if you have more than one partner. It is also important that you are proactive about seeking testing and treatment.”