UK Africans urged to test for HIV

“African people remain one of the groups most affected by HIV”

African communities within the UK are still a group at high risk of HIV, new figures released by the Health Protection Agency shows.

In 2009, 21,980 African people accessed HIV care, representing around 36% of all people accessing care in the UK that year.

While the number of heterosexual people infected in sub-Saharan Africa has dropped slightly, the number of people infected in the UK is on the rise, particularly among Africans. In 2009, an estimated 63% of heterosexual people newly diagnosed with HIV were among this group.

Sir Nick Partridge, Chief Executive for the UK’s leading HIV and sexual health charity, Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) said: “African people remain one of the groups most affected by HIV. We know that people can be reluctant to test, particularly African men, but with one in four people living with HIV unaware they are infected, it’s vital we encourage people to come forward. Testing is fast, free and confidential, and widely available both in clinics and local health and community centres. We need to normalise HIV testing, until we reach the stage where going for a sexual health check-up is as natural a part of people’s lives as getting any regular check up.”

He said that early diagnosis and effective treatment can enable most people living with HIV to lead “long and reasonably healthy lives; they can have children, they can continue working and support their family.”

“What’s crucial is that people get tested and find out if they have HIV so they get the best possible treatment they need at an early stage. If left undiagnosed they will be significantly more ill, three times more likely to infect others and will die earlier,” Sir Partridge added.

Other key national findings on HIV

– In 2009, an estimated 85,000 people were living with HIV in the UK, a 2.4% percent increase on the previous year.

– There were 6,630 new HIV diagnoses in 2009, marking a decline in new diagnoses for the fourth year running.

– There has been a steady increase in the number of heterosexual transmissions in the UK, over 1,000 people.

– Gay men remain at greatest risk of HIV. 2,760 were newly diagnosed in 2009, four in five of whom acquired their infection in the UK.

– There was a 95% uptake of HIV testing in antenatal clinics and a 77% uptake in sexually transmitted infection (STI) clinics in England.

– HIV treatment is of a high standard and makes a rapid improvement to health. 80% of people were seen in an HIV clinic within one month of diagnosis, 90% of these had an undetectable viral load one year after starting therapy and 93% of those in care for more than a year, had a healthy CD4 (white blood cell) count of above 200.

For free and confidential information on HIV and testing call THT Direct on 0845 1221 200.

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