HIV 180Ahead of England’s fourth annual National HIV Testing Week (21-27 Nov), new figures released by Public Health England (PHE) have revealed there are 18,100 people living with HIV in the UK who do not know they are HIV positive – a drop of a just 100 since last year.

More than 6,100 people were newly diagnosed in the UK in 2014 compared to around 6,000 in 2013 and just under 8,000 in 2005 with 75% of new diagnoses in men.

National HIV Testing Week Ambassador Dr Christian Jessen said: “I am proud to be the National HIV Testing Week Ambassador. Testing for HIV is crucial for prevention.

“The fact that diagnoses have increased is encouraging in one sense. If you get tested and receive a positive diagnosis, you can now immediately go onto treatment, and if you are on medication you are classed as ‘undetectable’ and the virus cannot be passed on.

“Most concerning to me is the fact that nearly one in six people with HIV do not realise they have it, so they are putting their own health at risk and HIV could unknowingly be passed on.”

Figures show the national rates of undiagnosed HIV as:
• MSM 14 per cent of MSM living with HIV are undiagnosed
• Black African heterosexuals 16 per cent in men and 12 per cent in women
• All Heterosexuals 21 per cent unaware of their diagnosis (1 in 5 PLHIV unaware of their status)

National HIV Testing Week is an initiative of HIV Prevention England, funded by Public Health England, and co-ordinated by Terrence Higgins Trust.

Shaun Griffin, Executive Director of External Affairs at the Terrence Higgins Trust, added: "The recent media maelstrom around HIV could have been really damaging for the 18,100 who have HIV and don’t know it. Such a damning portrayal perpetuates stigma and could actually deter people from accessing testing, treatment, and support.

"As National HIV Testing Week approaches we urge everyone to get tested. If we are going to reduce the number of people who have HIV, we need the number of people diagnosed to further increase. HIV treatment is now immediately available when diagnosed and once treatment is taken correctly, patients are classed as ‘undetectable’ and the virus can no longer be passed on. Testing is key to prevention.”

Undiagnosed infection is widely recognised as a key factor driving the UK’s HIV epidemic. Heterosexual sex continues to be the main transmission route for people of black African and black Caribbean ethnicity.

According to Public Health England 42% of all new HIV diagnoses acquired heterosexually were among people of black African ethnicity. Meanwhile, 40% of people newly diagnosed in 2014 were diagnosed late (CD4 count below 350) – this equates to 1,975 people.

Cary James, Head of Health Improvement Programmes, Terrence Higgins Trust said:
"If we are going to reduce the number of people who have HIV and don’t know it, we need the number of people diagnosed with HIV to further increase. We can only achieve this through more testing. That’s why NHTW is so important.

"HIV testing is free, fast, confidential and has never been easier. You can test in a hospital, sexual health clinic, at a community event, by post, or even at home."

For more information on National HIV Testing Week visit: www.tht.org.uk/itstartswithme/itstartswithme/National-HIV-Testing-Week