UK HIV cases continue to increase.

Publish Date: 26/11/2008

Man in Y FrontsAccording to the BBC, new estimates from health experts suggest that there are now 77,400 people living with HIV in the UK. There were more than 7000 diagnoses last year, which saw a 6% increase on cases in 2006. It was also put forward that almost a third of people are diagnosed late - meaning that they are at risk of missing out on the benefits of early treatment.

41% of new HIV cases are related to gay men, but heterosexual transmission is also on the rise. The Health Protection Agency have confirmed that UK cases of HIV infection through heterosexual contact, has risen from 540 diagnoses in 2003 to 960 cases last year.

It is also thought that there are 20,000 people living in the UK who are unaware that they have HIV. Health experts have stressed that more needs to be done to diagnose the infection earlier.

New HIV testing guidelines, supported by the Department of Health, recommend that all men and women between the ages of 15 and 59 in "high risk" areas of England should be offered a HIV test by their GP. The guidelines also suggest that gay men should be tested annually.

The "high risk" areas include the 25 primary health care trust areas inside London and parts of the South Coast, the Midlands, Manchester and Blackpool.

Lisa Power, from the HIV charity Terrence Higgins Trust stressed that the number of people unaware that they are living with HIV, pose a serious risk to public health.

She said: "Gay men and African people are most likely to have undiagnosed HIV in the UK, so we would urge people in those groups in particular to recognise their level of risk and get tested for HIV regularly."

The Chief Executive of the National AIDS Trust, Deborah Jack, highlighted the positives of early testing and diagnoses: "Treatment for HIV has revolutionised the condition and people with HIV can now expect a good life expectancy if they are diagnosed early and take their medication as advised."

For more on BBC's HIV article click here.