Tag Archives: HPA

Record numbers of UK gay men test positive for HIV

 

  • Almost half of new cases are gay or bisexual males
  • Up to 10,000 unaware of their infection, says study

The number of gay men being diagnosed with HIV has reached a record high in the UK, according to the Health Protection Agency (HPA).

One in 20 gay men and men who occasionally have sex with men are HIV positive in the UK – and in London, the ratio is as high as one in 12. Part of the reason for the observed rise is increased testing, but, says the HPA, it is also clear that too many men are unaware that they have HIV and are unknowingly infecting others.

“About 8,000 to 10,000 gay men are HIV positive and unaware of their status,” said Dr Valerie Delpech, the HPA’s head of HIV surveillance.

According to the HPA’s annual report, released on Thursday in advance of World Aids Day on Saturday, 3,010 men who have sex with men were newly diagnosed with HIV in 2011 – 47.9% of all new diagnoses in the UK. The numbers have remained high since 2007.

Men who have tested positive and been put on drug treatment, which can keep them healthy and give them a normal lifespan, are unlikely to be infectious. Trials have shown that treatment has a role to play in preventing the spread of the epidemic – the drugs reduce the levels of virus in somebody with HIV to such a low level that they are unlikely to transmit the infection to a sexual partner.

The HPA and organisations for those diagnosed with HIV are all advocating regular testing for anybody at risk. Gay men and other men who have sex with men should take an annual test, they say – and if they have new or casual partners, they should be tested every three months.

Living a long and healthy life with HIV depends on starting treatment early. “People are still starting late: they are infected for three to five years before they are diagnosed,” said Delpech. People who are diagnosed as HIV positive late are at 10 times the risk of dying within a year of discovering they have the infection. They are also more likely to infect people while they remain unaware of their status.

The black African community in Britain also faces a higher risk than average, with 37 out of every 1,000 living with HIV last year. Far more men and women in the black African community are diagnosed late than gay men – 68% and 61% respectively, compared with 35%.

The HPA is recommending safe-sex programmes promoting condom use and annual HIV testing as a priority for this community as well as for men who have sex with men. They want NHS clinicians to take every opportunity to offer testing to those at higher risk.

The total number of people in the UK living with HIV climbs steadily every year because treatment is keeping more people alive. Including both diagnosed and undiagnosed cases, it has now reached 96,000, with a total of 6,280 new diagnoses in 2011.

Nearly half of all new diagnoses were acquired heterosexually. More than half of all new UK infections were acquired while the subject was in Britain, compared with 27% in 2002: the small drop in new infections last year, from 6,400 in 2010 to 6,280 last year, was because of the drop in the number of people who had been infected abroad.

Deborah Jack, chief executive of the National Aids Trust, said: “What is striking about the HPA’s data is how it really shows both our successes and our shortcomings in tackling HIV in the UK. On the one hand, we can hail treatment as a real success story. Treatment is effective, people diagnosed with HIV can access it easily and it is working in keeping the virus under control.

“However, when it comes to increasing the uptake of testing – the gateway to treatment – our services are patchy, inconsistent and ultimately we are still failing to make any significant headway in tackling the high rates of undiagnosed HIV.

“A quarter of people living with HIV are unaware they have the virus. As long as this figure remains high, new infections will continue to occur. We must increase our efforts in encouraging people to test and making sure that the health service is taking advantage of every single avenue in offering an opportunity to test – something that isn’t happening at the moment.”

Sir Nick Partridge, the chief executive of the HIV/Aids charity the Terrence Higgins Trust, spoke up for safe sex and said that testing could add 40 years to a person’s life. “HIV is an entirely preventable condition, yet each year we see thousands more people across the UK receive this life-changing diagnosis,” he said. “While there is still no cure and no vaccine, that doesn’t mean we need to accept its continuing march.”

Original Story via Sarah Boseley, health editor at The Guardian

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UK’s battle with HIV goes into reverse, prompting calls for more testing

The HIV 1 virus. The numbers infected with HIV within the UK are on the rise, the Health Protection Agency says. Photograph: Institut Pasteur/AFP/Getty Images

More than 100,000 people in Britain are predicted to be living with HIV by the end of this year, according to an official report that warns that the virus is on the rise again in the UK.

While there is a continuing drop in new cases among people who have acquired HIV abroad, the numbers infected within the UK are on the rise, the Health Protection Agency says in the report on Tuesday. New diagnoses of HIV in men who have sex with men have hit a record high.

New infections of the virus, which eventually causes Aids if not kept in check by drugs, had been falling in the UK but that trend seems to have levelled off, according to the agency’s annual HIV report. At the end of 2010, there were an estimated 91,500 people with HIV in the UK, up from 86,500 the previous year. The figure includes estimates for those who have not had a test and do not know they are infected – thought to be around a quarter of the total.

In 2010, according to the HPA’s data, there were 3,000 new infections among men who have sex with men, 81% of which occurred in the UK. Most of the men were white (83%) and two-thirds (67%) were born in the UK. Some had been HIV-positive for years without knowing, but a third of those who were recently infected were under 35. The figures suggest that one in 20 gay men are living with HIV, the ratio rising to one in 12 in London.

When the epidemic began 30 years ago, people with HIV swiftly became sick, developed Aids and died of infections such as pneumonia that their bodies could not fight off. Today, combinations of antiretroviral drugs keep people alive and healthy and can give them a normal lifespan as long as they stay on the medication. That means the number living with the virus continues to rise.

Of the 91,500 people estimated to have HIV in the UK, just over 40,000 of the total are men who have sex with men. Around 2,300 are injecting drug users. Of the 47,000 infected through heterosexual sex, around 19,300 were African-born women and 9,900 African-born men. The prevalence rate in the black African community is one in 32 among men and one in 15 women.

Half of those who are diagnosed with HIV have gone to a doctor years after infection, at the point when they have fallen ill. Those people have a much worse prognosis: they are 10 times more likely to die within a year of diagnosis than people who were diagnosed earlier.

In 2010, 680 HIV-positive people died, 510 of them men. Two-thirds were people who had been diagnosed late. Most died within a year of being tested.

People who have not been diagnosed risk infecting others. The HPA says that there is a need to introduce routine HIV tests around the country beyond the traditional confines of sexually transmitted infection and antenatal clinics.

There have been pilot projects in the last two years in London, Brighton, Leicester and Sheffield. Testing was successfully introduced in two general practices, the acute care units of three hospitals and two community settings without opposition from staff or patients.

Greater efforts to test people and prevent infection would save the NHS money, because treating people is expensive, the HPA says. Because HIV has become a chronic, manageable condition instead of a fatal illness, the costs of providing specialist treatment and care are substantial and accelerating.

“It is difficult to calculate the true expenditure on HIV in the UK. However, of the £1.9bn spent by the Department of Health on infectious diseases in England in 2009-10, an estimated 40% was allocated to the treatment of HIV and Aids. This total does not include the costs of psychosocial care or HIV testing, so in fact the total amount spent on HIV treatment is much higher,” the report says.

The amount spent on prevention, the HPA adds, was £2.9m, just 1% of the overall HIV budget in 2010. The report says: “Investing in prevention should be a priority because of its potential for cost savings. We estimate that each infection prevented would save between £280,000 and £360,000 in lifetime treatment costs.

“If the 3,640 UK-acquired HIV diagnoses made in 2010 had been prevented, between £1bn and £1.3bn lifetime treatment and clinical care costs would have been saved.”

Original Article by Sarah Boseley at The Guardian

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New HIV Diagnoses – UK National Overview 2001 – 2010

Data released last month by the Health Protection Agency shows that almost 70,000 persons were accessing HIV-related care at the end of 2010, an increase of 4,100 (6%) compared to 2009. An estimated 90% were being treated as indicated under the current national guidelines.

Men who have sex with men remain the group most at risk of becoming infected with HIV, with 3,000 new diagnoses made in 2010 – the largest ever annual number of new HIV diagnoses in this group since the HIV epidemic began.

Dr Valerie Delpech, head of HIV at the Health Protection Agency, said:

“Despite progress in delivering treatment, preventing transmission is critical to reducing HIV costs to the NHS, which were an estimated £484 million in 2010 – an increase of £49 million from the previous year.

“The best way to prevent all sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, is to practise safe sex. This means using a condom with all new sexual partners until you have both been tested and given the all-clear.”

The national HIV and AIDS new diagnoses and deaths database held at the Health Protection Agency collects demographic and epidemiological information on adults (aged 15 years and older) who are newly diagnosed with HIV within England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Further demographic and epidemiological information on new diagnoses in Scotland are collected from Health Protection Scotland and for paediatric cases from the Institute of Child Health. On a six monthly basis, this information is collated to produce the number of individuals newly diagnosed with HIV in the United Kingdom, providing an understanding of the current epidemic and at risk groups.

You can download the new HIV diagnoses national tables from here.

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People Get HIV Through Unprotected Sex, Not Because They’re Going For Fish Pedicures!

The Health Protection Agency have said today that there is a risk of catching infections like HIV and Hepatitis from fish pedicure spa’s that are popping up everywhere.

An agency spokesman said: “We have issued this guidance because there are a growing number of these spas.  When the correct hygiene procedures are followed, the risk of infection is very low”.

“However, there is still a risk of transmission of a number of infections — this does include viruses like HIV and hepatitis.”

It’s a fine line to disagree with the Health Protection Agency but LASS are in good company.  HIV expert charities like Terrence Higgins Trust and the National AIDS Trust also say the likelihood of catching HIV in this manner is “almost impossible”.

It doesn’t help when the media sensationalise stories like this and take them out of context, reporting headlines such as “Fears fish foot spa pedicures could spread HIV and hepatitis C

Deborah Jack, chief executive of NAT, has accused the HPA of “misleading” people .

She said: “There is no risk of HIV being passed on through a fish pedicure and these claims do nothing but undermine public understanding.  At a time when knowledge of HIV is declining, it is crucial for the public to be aware of the facts so they can protect themselves from real transmission risk – and not get preoccupied with sensationalist and inaccurate reports.  We are concerned the HPA’s guidance has been misleading in terms of HIV risk and we urge them to clarify their position on this as soon as possible”.

“People are contracting HIV because they aren’t using condoms, not because they’re going for fish pedicures!”

Lisa Power, policy director at THT, said: “The risk of HIV being transmitted through a fish pedicure is so small as to be almost impossible. HIV is a fragile virus once it is outside the body; it cannot be passed on via animal or insect bites.

“For transmission to occur, two successive clients would need open wounds on their feet and there would have to be huge amounts of infected blood in the water. The reality is, in this country, too many people are contracting HIV because they aren’t using condoms, not because they’re going for fish pedicures.”

The National AIDS Trust have issued their own press release on the subject and a key point being made is the HPA’s report examines the available evidence and scientific plausibility for the transmission of blood borne viruses from person to person, via the water in the fish tank.  The HPA’s own report (which you can download from here) says “there is theoretical potential for transmission to occur” not “Pedicures could spread HIV”

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