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HIV rates highlighted in public health report

Nearly a quarter of people with HIV are unaware of their infection according to a report published by Public Health England (PHE).

HIV in Englandshows that there are now nearly 110,000 people living with HIV in the UK.

Published today in advance of National Aids Week, it also shows the number of gay and bi-sexual men living with HIV are at an annual high with an estimated 7,000 men living with the infection undiagnosed.

Around 6% of gay and bisexual men are now living with HIV, rising to 13% in London - with 3,250 newly diagnosed in 2013. It is estimated that 2,800 men acquired HIV in 2013.

The report also draws attention to the fact that one-third of the 40,000 black African heterosexual men and women living with HIV in the UK do not know they have the virus.

Dr Valerie Delpech said: “Knowing one's HIV status is the key to both effective treatment, and to preventing onward transmission. This is why we are promoting the National HIV Testing Week. The campaign encourages people who are most affected by HIV to take an HIV test.”

Professor Noel Gill, Head of PHE's HIV and STI department added: “Used correctly and consistently, condoms remain an inexpensive and effective way to prevent HIV.

“We are also now seeing important and exciting data on ways to use antiretroviral medication to prevent HIV. PHE has accelerated its support of the evaluation of these measures as they may help to turn the tide on the HIV epidemic.” 

Despite this, the proportion of people diagnosed with a late stage of HIV infection fell from 57% in 2004 to 42% in 2013. 

Dr Valerie Delpech placed emphasis on “the importance of testing for HIV to ensure an early diagnosis”.

She said: “People diagnosed promptly with HIV infection can expect to live long and healthy lives.”