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Public Health England (PHE) has released its annual report ‘HIV in the United Kingdom’ ahead of next week’s National HIV Testing Week. 

Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 15.00.32The report, which can be downloaded here, makes for interesting reading and raises a number of key issues for both the State, NGOs and the affected communities to tackle.

The headline from the report is that the estimated number of people now living with HIV in the UK is now 107,800 (95% credible interval 101,600-115,800) with an estimated 26,100 of those unaware that they are infected. That’s an increase from 1 in 5 in 2012, to 1 in 4 in 2013. The number of undiagnosed Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) dropped however from 7,300 (18%) to 7,200 (16%)

Cary James, Head of Health Improvement at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “Gay and bisexual men continue to be disproportionately affected by HIV, yet these figures show the community is testing more regularly and making significant headway at driving down undiagnosed infection. Three years ago, one in four gay men with HIV in this country were undiagnosed. Now that figure is less than one in six. We need to explore every avenue we can to continue to get more gay and bisexual men testing more frequently, from increasing opportunities to test in non-clinical settings to expanding postal HIV testing programmes. National HIV Testing Week provides an opportune platform for this, so we’d encourage men to get behind the campaign and make a commitment to test.”

The number of new diagnoses increased slightly year on year within the MSM group. A total of 3,250 MSM were diagnosed with HIV in 2013, compared to 3,230 in 2012. Diagnoses amongst other groups such as heterosexual men and women were down to 2,490 in 2013 from 2,780 in 2012.

1 in 13 gay men in the UK is now estimated to be HIV positive, with that figure rising to 1 in 8 in London, rising even further in some of the capitals more deprived areas.

Deborah Gold, chief executive of NAT (National AIDS Trust), said: “Whilst we have passed the 100,000 mark for the number of people living with HIV in the UK, there is a dangerous complacency in our society about the challenge of HIV.  The high rates of undiagnosed HIV are unacceptable but we are failing across the NHS and in the community consistently to offer HIV tests to those who need them, especially heterosexual men and women.  Progress is possible but there is still an immense amount to do to get everyone with HIV diagnosed in good time and meet the UN 90-90-90 target of just 10% undiagnosed.”

“The same complacency can be seen in the lack of action and investment in gay men’s HIV prevention.  Funding from local authorities is patchy and in many places non-existent.  We are taking far too long to get new prevention options like PrEP to the gay men who need them.  We lack a strategy for HIV across the UK and as a result there is no vision as to how to make progress.  The result is stagnation in our response.”

The amount of people being diagnosed late (after the point at which they should have already started treatment) was reduced from 47% to 42% year on year. An earlier diagnosis will often mean a longer life and one of a higher quality.

Dr Valerie Delpech, head of PHE ‘s national HIV surveillance, said: “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.”

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