Make efforts to halt spread of HIV, Africans in UK advised

African communities can play a vital role in the effort to slash HIV rates within a decade, HIV and sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) has said.

Thirty years have now passed since the death of Terry Higgins (4th July 1982), the first person in the UK to be publicly identified as dying with AIDS.

In the UK, African communities are one of the groups most at risk of HIV infection. More than 30 per cent of all HIV infections in the last ten years have been among Africans. In 2010 alone, 2,050 Africans were newly diagnosed with HIV in the UK. While 80 per cent had been infected abroad, the number of new infections in the UK is also on the rise.

Terrence Higgins Trust is calling on African communities to make a concerted effort to halt the spread of HIV. In the UK treatment and support is free and widely available and, if diagnosed early, a person with HIV can live a long and healthy life.

The charity estimates infection rates could be slashed within a decade with the help of African communities, if sexually active Africans: have an HIV test at least once a year and more often if they expose themselves to risks such as unprotected sex; use condoms with every new partner; ensure, if they have HIV, they are on timely treatment; and make a concerted effort to reduce stigma around HIV.

Taku Mukiwa, Health Promotion Specialist for African communities at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “HIV infections are still on the rise among African communities. However, in 2012, Africans really do have the power to help stop HIV in the UK in its tracks. By placing renewed emphasis on testing for STIs, using condoms and accessing treatment, we can slash infections over the next decade. But it is also vital that we work to tackle stigma that still exists today and all too often acts as a barrier to stop people going for a test.”

Terrence Higgins Trust’s online healthier lifestyle magazine for Africans, Mambo (www.mambo.org.uk) offers advice for African communities about managing their sexual health.

THE UK EPIDEMIC IN NUMBERS
• 100,000 people living with HIV, one in four of whom are undiagnosed.
• 6,000 – 7,000 new infections each year
• 500 – 600 people still die with HIV each year
• 20,000 people have died with AIDS since 1982