By the end of 2012 it is estimated that there will be 100,000 people living with
HIV in the UK. HIV diagnoses remain stubbornly high. The two communities most affected are gay and bisexual men and African men and women.
Approximately one in twenty gay and bisexual men and one in twenty African men and women in the UK are living with HIV. In 2010, 3,000 gay and bisexual men were newly diagnosed with HIV; this is the highest number of gay and bisexual men newly diagnosed with HIV ever reported in a single year.
In the same year, half of all people diagnosed were diagnosed late; people diagnosed late have a ten-fold increased risk of death within one year of HIV
diagnosis compared to those diagnosed promptly. And still nearly a quarter of people living with HIV in the UK are unaware of their status. This is of real
concern given that the majority of transmissions come from people who are themselves unaware that they have HIV.
Advances in treatment have seen enormous improvements in quality of life and life expectancy for people living with HIV. In 2010, 85% of people on treatment had an undetectable viral load within a year of starting medication, a marker of
successful treatment. However, this success in treatment has not been matched by improvements in social support for people living with HIV. Many still experience stigma and discrimination, live in poverty and cannot access the psychological support they need.
Although HIV remains one of the most serious infectious diseases affecting the UK, public understanding and knowledge of HIV is poor and getting worse. Recent Ipsos MORI research commissioned by NAT revealed that only one in
three adults were able to correctly identify all the ways HIV is and is not transmitted from a list of options, with almost a fifth mentioning one incorrect
method such as spitting or sharing a glass. One in five were unaware that HIV is transmitted through sex without a condom between a man and woman.
The research also showed a link between poor knowledge about HIV and negative and judgemental attitudes towards people living with HIV. There is
clearly still a need to improve awareness among the public, both to prevent the spread of HIV – each new infection costs the UK over a quarter of a million
pounds in direct lifetime medical costs alone – and to prevent misconceptions which fuel stigma and discrimination.
Despite this situation, there is no strategy for HIV in England – the last national strategy for sexual health and HIV came to an end in 2010. Over 90% of people living with HIV in the UK live in England, and yet England is the only country within the UK not to have a strategy.
Would you like to know more? Read the National AIDS Trust HIV Strategy.
- Record numbers of UK gay men test positive for HIV (lass.org.uk)