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North West HIV care figure concerns

John Freeman
The number of people being treated for HIV in the North West region reached 6,332 in 2010  according to Health Protection Agency figures published today ahead of World AIDS Day on Thursday.

The HPA’s annual ‘HIV in the UK’ report reveals that the North West has the second largest number of people accessing HIV care behind London with an increase of 6.4% from 5.950 people in 2009. The 40 – 44 year old group is the age group with the most people accessing care (1,233).

The report confirms that men who have sex with men remain the group most at risk of acquiring HIV infection in the UK, with this group accounting for 50% of people accessing care in the NW (3,186 out of 6,332).

In 2010, as reported to end of June 2011, there were 508 new HIV diagnoses. The 2010 figure represents a 22% increase on the 418 new diagnoses in 2001. The North West reported the lowest numerical increase and the second lowest (after London) proportional increase from 2001. The overall UK increase since 2001 was 29%.

Figures for 2010 are likely to rise as further reports are received. In 2010, an estimated 44% of newly diagnosed individuals acquired their infection heterosexually and 23% were of black African ethnicity (UK average 31%). 51% acquired their infection through sex between men and were of white ethnicity (UK average 37%). The North West has the second highest proportion (highest being Northern Ireland) of new HIV diagnoses among men who have sex with men of white ethnicity.

Dr Roberto Vivancos, HPA North West’s sexual health lead, said: “HIV is avoidable. It’s important for people to practise safer sex for their own protection and out of respect for their partner. This is especially important advice for people in new relationships and for anyone who has casual sex.”

Dr Valerie Delpech, Consultant Epidemiologist and Head of HIV Surveillance at the HPA, said: “HIV is an infection that nowadays can be treated and those diagnosed promptly can expect to experience similar life expectancy to an individual without the infection. However, we are very concerned that a large number of people in the UK are unaware of their HIV status and are diagnosed late.

“We want to see increased access to HIV testing in clinical settings, with tests being offered to new registrants at GPs and hospital general admissions in areas of the country where rates of HIV infection are high. We are also urging sexual health clinics to ensure that HIV testing is offered as part of a universal sexual health screen at every new attendance."

North West HIV Data Figures

• Download the New Diagnoses Table: New HIV Diagnoses North West 2011 Part 1 (PDF)

Contact the Lancaster & Morecambe confidential HIV support services on 079 2534 3139.

Contact the Lancaster & Morecambe GUM Sexual Health Clinics on 0845 0590 015.