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UK: One in five PLHIV unaware of their status

Friday, 22 November, 2013

One in five people living with HIV (PLHIV) in the United Kingdom (UK) are unaware of their HIV status, according to the new HIV in the UK 2013 Report, released yesterday by Public Health England. The report also states that men who have sex with men (MSM) and black Africans continue to be the most affected groups by HIV –prevalence of PLHIV among these groups is 47 per 1000 population, and 38 per 1000 population respectively. This is compared to 1.5 per 1000 of the overall population in the UK.

According to the report, in 2012 there were an estimated 98,400 people living with HIV in the UK. 9,360 people became newly infected with HIV in 2012, a minor increase on the year before, but continuing the downward trend since the peak of 7,930 in 2005. PLHIV who are unaware of their status stands at 22 percent, a figure that has improved only marginally from the year before. Late diagnosis of HIV is still a problem – 47 percent being diagnosed with a CD4 count of less than 350 cells/mm3. In particular, late diagnosis of HIV was highest among black African men and women – 66 percent and 61 percent respectively. An alarming figure given the most important predictor of mortality for PLHIV is late diagnosis.

New diagnosis among MSM increased from 3,010 in 2011, to 3,250 in 2012 – the highest ever. The report attributes this to increased levels of testing for HIV, coupled with continuing high levels of risky behaviour. Professor Noel Gill of PHE stated: “Around half of MSM 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.”

In the UK, HIV is now considered to be a manageable chronic illness. If you are diagnosed early, adhere to treatment and maintain a healthy lifestyle, life expectancy is not far off the national average. From a treatment as prevention perspective, knowing your status also makes you less likely to transmit HIV to others. As such, the report highlights the importance of increasing testing and awareness, particularly among MSM and black African communities, as integral for curbing the HIV epidemic in the UK.

National HIV Testing Week starts today in the UK. Why not get yourself tested? Find your nearest clinic through this service.