25 November 2008
An estimated 77,400 people were living with HIV in the UK in 2007 with more than a quarter (28 per cent) unaware of their infection, according to figures released today by the Health Protection Agency.
This compares to the estimated 73,000 previously reported to be living with the infection (2006).
In 2007 there were 7,734 new diagnoses of HIV – a similarly high figure to previous years (7,334 in 2006).
Almost a third (31 per cent) of individuals are being diagnosed with HIV late - at a point after which therapy should have begun (CD4 cell count less than 200 per mm3) - which means that they are missing out on the benefits associated with early diagnosis including prolonged life expectancy.
Dr Valerie Delpech, Head of HIV surveillance at the Health Protection Agency's Centre for Infections, said:
"Diagnosing HIV infections earlier will reduce transmission of this infection as those unaware of their positive status pose a greater risk to future sexual partners.
"Late diagnosis also has a major impact on disease and life expectancy and it is vital that people are diagnosed early.
"It is very worrying that so many people remain unaware of their HIV status. Wider HIV testing in high prevalence areas of the UK is urgently needed to reduce the number of undiagnosed infections."
New national testing guidelines recommend wider HIV testing in those areas of the country where the prevalence of HIV infection is greatest and state that health professionals should offer HIV testing to all men and women aged 15 to 59 who are:
These areas include London, parts of the South coast (inc. Brighton, Bournemouth, and Eastbourne), Manchester and Blackpool - where prevalence has historically been high. Also included are areas that have experienced more recent increases including areas surrounding London such as Luton, Watford, Slough and Crawley, and Northampton, Nottingham and the Midlands.
Dr Delpech said:
"Access to testing must be made easier. We need to improve availability of HIV testing in a number of healthcare settings, including general practice, to improve diagnosis of this infection. Without this we will not see the reduction in transmission that we need to see, or a further fall in serious disease."
Notes to editors
Two reports have been published today by the Health Protection Agency. To view these online please go to:
HIV in the United Kingdom: 2008 report www.hpa.org.uk/hivuk2008
Sexually transmitted infections and men who have sex with men in the UK: 2008 report www.hpa.org.uk/hivmsm2008
2007 in numbers
The Map below shows the distribution of rates of HIV across the UK.
To view the UK National Guidelines for HIV Testing 2008 produced by the British HIV Association (BHIVA), the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) and the British Infection Society (BIS) visit www.bhiva.org
To view data electronically that shows Primary Care Trusts in England where the prevalence of diagnosed HIV infection exceeded two adults per 1,000 population (aged 15-59 years) in 2007 visit
The Chief Medical Officer, Professor Sir Liam Donaldson, wrote to the NHS in September 2007 highlighting best practice about offering and recommending, where appropriate, HIV testing in all healthcare settings, not just those traditionally offering this service.
Health Protection Agency press contacts
For further information please contact the Health Protection Agency's Centre for Infections press office on
Georgina Fletcher 020 8327 6690
David Daley 020 8327 6647
Alexandra Baker 020 8327 7098
Kate Swan 020 8327 7097
Louise Brown 020 8327 7080
Last reviewed: 26 November 2008