HIV cases soar to all-time high in the UK

HIVHIV figures have reached an all-time high in the UK, with more than 100,000 people now living with the virus – though a quarter are still unaware they have it. This means there is a massive risk these people will be spreading the condition on to others unknowingly via unprotected sex and not using condoms.

The latest statistics on HIV have been published by Public Health England (PHE) ahead of National HIV Testing Week, running from 22 – 30th November.

However, the figures do show that in general, there are a higher number of people being given an earlier diagnosis. This is good news as the majority of people that die from HIV are those that are diagnosed too late.

The proportion of those given a diagnosis at a late stage of the HIV infection dropped from 57% in 2004 to 42% by 2013.

In addition, an estimated 6% of gay and bisexual men across the UK are now living with HIV, but this jumps to 13% in the capital, meaning one on eight sexually active men in London has HIV.

There were 3,250 men given a new diagnosis of HIV last year, representing an all-time annual high, meanwhile it is believed there are around 7,000 gay men living with the HIV infection and are undiagnosed, with an estimated 2,800 men contracting the virus in 2013 alone.

Health experts say the findings show there is a need to boost both the number of HIV tests carried out, and the frequency of them, crucial action to hopefully fight the continuous high levels of HIV transmission.

In a statement, Public Health England (PHE) said: “While the large majority of black Africans do not have the HIV infection, the report also draws attention to the fact that one-third of the 40,000 black African heterosexual men and women living with HIV in the UK do not know they have HIV.”

Dr Valerie Delpech, head of PHE’s national HIV surveillance, added: “We can’t overstate the importance of testing for HIV to ensure an early diagnosis. People diagnosed promptly with HIV infection can expect to live long and healthy lives. However in 2013, people diagnosed with HIV late were 10 times more likely to die in the first year of diagnosis compared to those diagnosed promptly. People who remain unaware of their infection are also at risk of transmitting HIV to others. Knowing HIV status is the key to both effective treatment, and to preventing onward transmission.”

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) attacks the immune system; our body’s natural defence mechanism against infections and disease. Health Protection Agency statistics from 2010 showed 95% of cases in the UK came about as a result of sexual contact, usually not bothering to wear a condom. However, sharing infected needles, syringes or other drug paraphernalia are also risk factors for HIV.

Signs of HIV

After infection, the signs of HIV will normally take between two to six weeks to show up and they include common flu symptoms such as fever, sore throat, tiredness, muscular pain and a bodily rash may also arise. If you believe you might be at risk then you should go for a test immediately and do not delay.

For those concerned that they could have HIV, remember it is absolutely vital to go and get tested now and not delay it. Delaying vital critical treatment can be fatal and somebody diagnosed at a late stage is actually nine times more likely to die within twelve months of receiving their diagnosis compared to somebody who gets tested and diagnosed at an early stage.

If HIV is left untreated or insufficiently managed, HIV then develops into AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) and at this point the body is now unable to fend-off life-threatening infections because of the severe damage to the immune system.

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