HIV figures on the rise in region

THE number of people living with HIV in the east of England has risen 7% year-on-year, new figures have revealed.

Hollie-Rae Merrick

THE number of people living with HIV in the east of England has risen 7% year-on-year, new figures have revealed.

In 2008, there were 3,949 people with diagnosed HIV in the region - a rise from 3,694 the previous year.

By the beginning of this year, the overall figure - including 27% remaining undiagnosed and unaware they were infected - was expected to have reached over 5,400 people.

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In Suffolk there are 189 people with diagnosed HIV and in North East Essex and Mid Essex a total of 269 people are actively seeking care for the virus.

The statistics revealed by the UK's Health Protection Agency (HPA) reveal that last year there were an estimated 83,000 people living with HIV in the UK.

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The HPA has estimated that, of the region's figures, 18%of the newly-diagnosed were white gay men and a further 58% were black African heterosexuals.

Terrence Higgins Trust, the UK's leading HIV and sexual health charity, has called for the introduction of a national targeted HIV Screening Programme.

It is hoped that a screening programme would halve undiagnosed HIV in the UK by 2014.

Victoria Gamble, regional manager from Terrence Higgins Trust in the East of England, said: “The level of undiagnosed HIV in the country is completely unacceptable.

“With early diagnosis and effective treatment, most people with HIV can live to old age. If left undiagnosed, they will die earlier, be significantly more ill and more likely to infect others.

“HIV testing is easy, quick and saves lives - there should be more testing in more settings, and we need the political will to make this happen.”

The figures reveal that HIV is most common in people aged between 30 and 40, although 17% of those accessing HIV care in the region were found to be over 50 years old.

Dr Valerie Delpech, an expert in HIV from the Health Protection Agency said: "HIV is a serious infection but if diagnosed early, there are very good treatment options.

“Our concern is that over 22,000 people remain unaware of their infection in the UK and cannot therefore benefit from effective treatment.”

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