27 November, 2008

Record number of HIV victims

RECORD numbers of Brits are now living with HIV – and more than a quarter have no idea they are infected.

Figures from the Health Protection Agency show an estimated 77,400 people had HIV in 2007, up from 73,000 a year before.

Of those with the infection, 28 per cent were unaware they had HIV while a significant number were diagnosed late.

“It is very worrying that so many people remain unaware of their HIV status,” said Dr Valerie Delpech, head of HIV surveillance at the HPA.

“Wider HIV testing in high-prevalence areas of the UK is urgently needed to reduce the number of undiagnosed infections.”


There were 7,734 estimated new diagnoses, continuing the high upward trend of recent years, the HPA said.

The number of people who had contracted the infection through heterosexual contact in Britain had also significantly risen.

Dr Delpech said a third of those found to have the infection were diagnosed late, meaning they missed out on the benefits of an 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,” she said.


“Late diagnosis also has a major impact on disease and life expectancy and it is vital that people are diagnosed early.”

Lisa Power, Head of Policy at HIV charity the Terrence Higgins Trust, said the figures were worrying.

“There are now well over 20,000 people in the UK who have HIV and don’t know it.

"Not only is this dangerous to their own health, but they are more likely to pass the virus on than someone who has been diagnosed,” she said.

“Gay men and African people are most likely to have undiagnosed HIV in the UK so we’d urge people in those groups in particular to recognise their level of risk and get tested for HIV regularly.” (thesun)

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