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HIV cases in UK could hit 100,000 by end of 2012

HPA warning on HIV rise prompts call for earlier diagnosis

Adrian O'Dowd

Tuesday, 07 June 2011

The number of people living with HIV in the UK could rise to 100,000 by the end of next year, according to a new report from the Health Protection Agency (HPA).

The rise from the current figure of 86,500 in 2009 – the latest available figure – is predicted says the Agency if several factors do not change such as encouraging behaviour change, more prevention, routine testing as part of expanded HIV testing policies, and earlier diagnosis.

In a new health protection report from the HPA called 30 years on: people living with HIV in the UK about to reach 100,000, timed to mark the 30 year anniversary of the first HIV diagnosis in June 1981 in Los Angeles, the Agency has made the prediction based on epidemiologists’ estimates.

Since the first diagnosis of HIV was made in 1981, there have been 115,000 infections diagnosed in the UK alone. Of these people diagnosed with this once deadly infection 27,000 have developed full blown AIDS and 20,000 have died.

The HPA stressed that although individuals now diagnosed with the infection in the early stages can expect a normal life span compared with the first decades of the global epidemic when HIV was fatal, HIV was still a serious infection and public health issue.

By the end of 2012, there are likely to be around 100,000 people living with the infection in the UK, said the HPA, due to ongoing high rates of HIV diagnoses and fewer deaths from AIDS, thanks to treatment advancements, which have resulted in a steady year on year rise in the number of cases in recent years.

Dr Valerie Delpech, head of the HIV department at the HPA said: “The significant advances in medicine have had an immense impact on the HIV situation in the UK which has been enormously important in removing the stigma associated with the infection as it is not the death sentence it was 30 years ago.

“However, practicing safe sex is as vital as it was when the epidemic began. Wearing a condom with all new or casual partners should be normal practice. Prevention is the best way to combat HIV and AIDS – there is still no cure.”

The Agency advised that an HIV test should be routinely offered and recommended to all general medical admissions to hospital in high prevalence areas – areas where diagnosed HIV infection is greater than 2 per 1,000 in those aged 15-59 years. Such testing should also be offered to new registrants in primary care.

Dr Paul Cosford, executive director of Health Protection Services at the HPA said:

“Unfortunately in the last few years new diagnoses of HIV infections acquired within the UK are on the upward turn in men who have sex with men and the 30 year anniversary is a timely reminder that this infection is still very much an issue 30 years on.

“We are continuing to work hard alongside clinicians, public health specialists and communities to ensure that HIV prevention remains at the top of the public health agenda.”

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