Concern over undiagnosed rates of HIV in Lancashire

Blackburn Citizen: Vital HIV research goes on Vital HIV research goes on

HEALTH experts have raised concern about the number of people in Lancashire who are unaware they have HIV.

According to Public Health England [PHE], more than 1,100 people in Lancashire and Cumbria are receiving treatment for HIV, but another 275 do not realise they have the condition.

John Astbury, who is the region’s consultant in health protection, said: “HIV is serious and if left untreated it can be life-threatening.

“Advances in treatment now mean the sooner HIV is diagnosed and treated, the better the treatment outcome and the lower the risk of passing it on to others.”

“Last year 82 people in the region were newly diagnosed with HIV, up from 63 in 2011.

“This increase may reflect that more people are coming forward to be tested which is a positive step.

“But we must not be complacent about getting the messages about HIV out to everyone and continue our efforts to prevent transmission of this infection.”

There are more than 100,000 people living with HIV in the UK. Gay and bisexual men and Africans remain the two groups most affected. However, an estimated 20,000 non-African heterosexuals across the country are living with the virus.

Jackie Redding, director of service development for the Terrence Higgins Trust sexual health charity, said: “HIV is still the UK’s fastest-growing serious health condition, so it’s vital that people arm themselves with the facts they need to stay safe.

“We’re now in a stronger position than ever to beat the virus, with cutting-edge testing services and free, world-class drug treatments for anyone who tests positive.

“Modern HIV tests are fast, simple and confidential – from next year, people will even be able to test at home. We fully believe we can turn the tide of the epidemic, but we need to see more people testing, and testing more regularly, to drive down undiagnosed HIV locally.”

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