Third of adults with HIV- unaware of infection

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23/11/2006

The number of gay men with HIV has reached an all-time high, according to a report published today.

There were more than 2,350 new cases of the disease in homosexual and bisexual men in the UK last year ? up 55 per cent up on the year 2000.


Experts at the Health Protection Agency said safe sex messages were still being ignored by many gay men.

New HIV diagnoses in the general population have stabilised at 7,450 per year. However of the 63,500 adults thought to be living with the disease, almost a third do not know they were infected.

Among adults who acquired their infection through heterosexual contact, the disease was 46 times more prevalent among black Africans and 3.7 per cent more prevalent in black Caribbeans than in the white population.

Dr Valerie Delpech, of an HIV expert at the HPA, said: “We are seeing an ever increasing pool of people living with HIV and aids in the UK.

“This is due to people living longer with HIV due to advances in treatment, sustained levels of newly acquired infections in gay men, further diagnoses among heterosexuals who acquired their infection in Africa and cases being picked up earlier.

“There were more HIV infections among men who have sex with men in 2005 than ever before.

“This remains the group at greatest risk of acquiring the infection and we are still seeing high risk behaviour.”

The report states the increase in diagnoses of HIV among homosexual and bisexual men in 2005 was due to a combination of continued adversity to condom use, increased testing and improved identification of cases in some regions.

Use of anti-retroviral drugs has led to a dramatic increase in life expectancy. AIDS diagnoses among homosexual and bisexual men have fallen by half since 2000 and deaths are down 22 per cent over the same period.

Deaths from AIDS in the general population have decreased from a peak of 1,469 a decade ago to around 500 per year since 1998. Most deaths occur as a result of late diagnosis.

The HPA recommended government action should be targeted the gay, black African and black Caribbean communities, and that HIV testing for these at risk groups to be made part of GP and other primary care health checks.

Dr Delpech added: “Primary care practitioners should be supported to assess the health needs of migrants and gay men including discussing the need for HIV testing to ensure these groups are diagnosed as early as possible.”

Deborah Jack, chief executive of the National AIDS Trust, said: “HIV testing should be made more widely available outside sexual health clinics and antenatal clinics in order to reduce the high level of people living with HIV who are undiagnosed or diagnosed late.”

Nick Partridge, chief executive of sexual health charity the Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “Diagnosing the third of people with HIV who don’t know they have it is vital to prevent onward transmission and untimely deaths.”


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