A charity is calling for double the number of people in groups most affected by HIV to take a test, as a report says infections are reaching record levels.
Nearly 100,000 people are now living with HIV in the UK according to the figures from Public Health England (PHE), published in the lead up to National HIV Testing Week which takes place between 22 and 29 November.
The proportion of people who are unaware they are living with HIV declined slightly between 2011 and 2012, from 25% to 22%, with 21,900 now believed to be undiagnosed.
Terrence Higgins Trust, which co-ordinates the initiative, says reducing the number of people who do not know they are infected is “the single most important step” to halting infection rates.
Paul Ward, Acting Chief Executive of the charity, said: “We’ve never been in a stronger position to beat the virus, with cutting-edge testing services and free, world-class drug treatments for anyone who tests positive.
“We know testing works and treatment works; all we need is the individual commitment and public funding to make it happen. If we can get this, we can turn the tide of the epidemic.”
There were a record number of HIV diagnoses among gay and bisexual men, who are the largest group affected by the virus, although it is estimated that 100,000 tests were taken between 2011 and 2012.
Mr Ward believes that the number of tests is having a positive effect saying: “Among gay men, testing rates are up, diagnoses are up, and as a result undiagnosed infection is coming down.”
But Professor Noel Gill, head of PHE’s HIV and STI department, says that more frequent testing is needed for the groups most at risk.
He said: “Around half of men who have sex with men recently diagnosed with HIV received their diagnosis the first time they tested, which is a strong indication that many men who should be testing are not.”
Current recommendations for gay and bisexual men are that they should have a HIV test annually, and every three months if they are having unprotected sex with new or casual partners.
Black African men and women, who are the second largest group affected by HIV, are also being strongly advised to have a test.
The report from PHE also showed that nearly half (47%) of the people who were diagnosed with HIV in 2012 were identified late, although that percentage has fallen over the last decade.