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Home News centre National Press Releases 2008 Press Releases ›  Record numbers living with HIV in the UK

Record numbers living with HIV in the UK

25 November 2008

Wider availability of testing required to reduce heterosexual and gay transmission

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.


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).

  • The estimated number of people infected through heterosexual contact within the UK has increased from 540 new diagnoses in 2003 to 960 in 2007, and has doubled, from 11% (540/4,800) in 2003 to 23% (960/4,260) in 2007, as a proportion of all heterosexual diagnoses during this period.
  • Diagnoses among gay men continue to increase with 3,160 men (41 per cent of all new diagnoses) testing positive in 2007.

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:

  • registering in general practice or 
  • admitted for medical care

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."

Ends

 

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

  • An estimated 77,400 persons of all ages are living with HIV in the UK.
  • This equates to a rate of 127 per 100,000 population.
  • Among the 73,300 HIV infected individuals aged 15 - 59 years, 28 per cent are unaware of infection (20,700 - estimated range16,300 to 25, 800]).
  • 32,000 gay men are living with HIV in the UK.
  • 2007 saw 7,734 new diagnoses of HIV, a similarly high figure to the diagnoses made in the previous four years.
    - 3,160 (41 per cent) were among gay men with the majority acquiring their infections in the UK.
    - 4,260 (55 per cent) were acquired through heterosexual contact - with the majority of cases probably infected abroad. Total diagnoses among heterosexuals have declined from their peak in 2004 (4,850) although those acquired within the UK are increasing from 11 per cent in 2003 (540/ 4,800) to 23 per cent in 2007 (960/ 4,260).
    - 180 acquired through injecting drug use.
    - 110 acquired through mother-to-child transmission.

 

The Map below shows the distribution of rates of HIV across the UK.
 distribution of rates of HIV across the UK


HIV Testing
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
http://www.hpa.org.uk/hpr/archives/2008/news3808.htm#sophid

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.
https://www.cas.dh.gov.uk/ViewandAcknowledgment/ViewAlert.aspx?AlertID=100818

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