Monthly Archives: November 2011

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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World Aids Day: Living With HIV, The Virus That’s No Longer A Death Sentence

Thirty years after the first reported diagnoses of AIDS, Sarah Morrison of The Independent shows how the world has been dealing with a virus that is no longer a death sentence

Red balloons will be released, vigil candles lit and heads of state will recall those who have fallen victim to HIV/Aids on the 24th World Aids Day, to be held this week. Thirty years after the first reported diagnoses of Aids – then tantamount to a death sentence – one remarkable fact highlights the advances medicine has made: the number of people living with HIV has reached a record 34 million.

Thanks to antiretroviral drugs, which almost 50 per cent of people with the virus can now access, the number of Aids-related deaths around the world stands at 1.8 million a year – its lowest level since a peak in 2005, according to a recent UNAIDS report. While those who lived through the late 1980s and early 1990s in Britain will remember a rapid rise in Aids deaths, which largely affected gay men, injecting drug users and people who had received blood infusions, the fastest growing group of people with the disease in this country are now the over-50s.

But while HIV rates have fallen elsewhere, in the UK the number of diagnosed cases increased by more than 50 per cent between 2000 and 2009. There are now more than 90,000 people in Britain with HIV. In 2009 there were three times as many heterosexual people infected in the UK with HIV than in 2001, according to the Terrence Higgins Trust.

The Independent on Sunday met two HIV-positive people living contrasting lives in different parts of world.

Chris Williams, 47

Chris Williams tested positive for HIV three years ago during a routine check-up. He gave up his job as a personal trainer after his diagnosis and decided to study counselling, so that he can one day work in the public health sector. His infection was spotted early and he has yet to fall ill. He takes five pills a day; they are delivered free of charge to his door every six months.

“My experience of treatment has been very straightforward. I have a blood test twice a year. I see a doctor and he authorises the prescription of my drugs on the basis of the results. I’ve been very lucky and felt no side effects to my medication, except a little fatigue sometimes.

“At the beginning, I only told a few people, but gradually I have become more open about my status. Some people say I’m over-optimistic about the prognosis of my HIV, but I think in this country, there is no need for it to still be a killer disease.

“You can still go out and have a social life. Some people find it difficult to deal with psychologically, and there is still a lot of room for improvement, but it’s not all doom and gloom. When I do go, I hope it won’t be from HIV, but from old age.”

Hellen Njeri Ngugi, 40

Hellen Njeri Ngugi and her husband, also HIV-positive, live with their three children in a one-bedroom house in the Mathare Valley slums, sharing one latrine with 12 neighbours. When Mrs Ngugi was diagnosed with the disease 11 years ago, her husband refused to accept her condition at first. It took Mrs Ngugi two years to get the treatment that she needs, as the clinic was three hours away. Christian Aid has since given her counselling and support.

“When I found out I was HIV-positive, I thought it was the end of my life. People around showed me so much discrimination, including my parents. I could not share anything with them, including eating utensils and sleeping stuff.

“I used to work in a hotel, balancing the finances, but now my husband and I don’t have permanent jobs. Whenever he fell sick, he was sacked. I now make soap, but I can’t walk far, so I have to use my phone to look for customers. It is very difficult to raise money for the family.

“But, through counselling, I was encouraged. I have become a role model for others and was moved to another clinic, a 45-minute walk from my house. I now get my pills every three months.”

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How Can You Support LASS If You Don’t Have The Time?

LASS is registered for JustTextGiving which enables supporters to make donations of up to £10 by text message.

It’s easy to donate to LASS, and it takes no time at all, simply text: “LASS25 £10” to 70070.  (You can change the amount of your donation to: £1, £2, £3, £4 or £5 if you prefer) and you’ll receive a text message receipt, and the chance to add Gift Aid by text or in web form.

When you make a text donation, it’ll either be deducted from your mobile phone credit or added to your mobile phone bill – and you won’t pay any VAT on your donation.

Has LASS helped you or a friend recently? We provide support for people affected or infected with HIV, our services are free, confidential and individually tailored in consultation with each service user to meet their specific needs. We  aim to assist people in making the best choices for themselves, and to maximise their own potential.

We offer a completely free and confidential rapid HIV test and you’ll get the results within 60 seconds from a simple finger prick test and especially around World AIDS Day, we do everything we can to prevent the spread of HIV and to promote positive sexual health through education, training and community initiatives.

It’s World AIDS day soon, you’ll see us out at supermarkets, school’s, collages, art exhibitions and fund-raisers, feel free to ask us questions and support our cause and if you havent donated to LASS this World AIDS Day yet, please consider a £1, £2, £3, £4, £5 or even a £10 donation by text.  It’s simple, quick and easy, you could it right now: LASS25 £10 to 70070

Thank  You

Art Exhibition for World AIDS Day

An art exhibition will be hosted at The Crumbling Cookie, High Street Leicester and the Exchange Bar, Rutland Street Leicester from 1st to 16th December. A proportion of the sales of all the art in the exhibition will be donated to LASS, to assist with crisis funding for people living with or affected by HIV.

Local artist and illustrator, Wayne Anderson has kindly donated a print towards the exhibition. The featured artists include the late Dave Johnson, artist, musician and alchemist whose work was recently exhibited in the “War & Peace” exhibition at Leicester Museum & Art Gallery. His work includes reflections on World War 1, his travels and his alchemical studies. His wife Christine Hume-Johnson will exhibit art inspired by their life together and linked to her use of his journals.

Other artists exhibiting work include:

  • Tony O’Dwyer who has work in the permanent Guinness Collection in Dublin
  • Nick Nixon, local commercial artist, photographer and illustrator
  • Sue Graham, who is recognised for her inspiring water colours and seascapes
  • Jim Tetlow, local musician and artist
  • Maureen Anderson, local musician and artist who is currently in negotiation with an international publishing company who are considering  her book for their 2012 book lists.


The Exchange Bar is hosting some pieces from the art exhibition, with free entry to view. The bar is on Rutland Street, opposite the Curve and the Athena, in the Cultural Quarter of Leicester.

Please visit to enjoy the exhibition and the beautiful bar.

The Crumbling Cookie is hosting other pieces in the exhibition, again with free entry to view. The café is on High Street Leicster.

The Crumbling Cookie is hosting the opening night, on Thursday 1st December, World AIDS day, from 4pm to 7pm. Come along and meet the artists. There will be music and poetry featuring George Sanderson, Maureen Anderson and Tony Jones who plays a Seagull Parlour Acoustic, roots from South Africa, Wales and England. He also plays folk and blues, playing covers as well as his own compositions.

We encourage you to visit to enjoy the art. Please join us for the Opening Night from 4-7 on 1st December. Cordial and nibbles will be served.

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It’s another packed issue this time around. Check out their World AIDS Day round up, compiled by Joel Korn.

Robert Fieldhouse interviews the team at London’s Homerton Hospital about their pioneering use of laser ablation to treat anal pre-cancer and makes a quick visit to a new respite care centre, Trebullom, in Cornwall and finds it to be a remarkably restorative experience.

Sarah Radcliffe from NAT walks us through NAT’s latest piece of vital research into the day-to-day changes in symptoms many people living with HIV experience.

LASS’s very own Julie Musonda begins a new series of articles on Life Coaching and Chris Morgan reveals the findings of his recent survey of life assurance providers, finding 50% of companies now provide life assurance to people living with HIV.

Plus there’s all the usual UK, Global, Treatment and Hepatitis news.

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One Voice Many Faces: Spread the Realities of HIV & Kick out Stigma & Discrimination

This year we are asking people to make a pledge for World AIDS Day.  This might be something you do on 1st December or perhaps a project you can work toward for next year.

The idea is to increase awareness of the facts and realities of HIV – there are too many myths around.

Pick up one of our new HIV cards – it fits in your pocket or wallet. It will help to remind you what the key facts are.

What is your pledge for 2012?

A reminder about these 2 opportunities to reflect:

Saturday 26th November, 12 noon:

  • “Choose Life” A service of preparation for World AIDS day at Leicester Cathedral. (Faith in people with HIV event)

Thursday 1st December

  • Leicester Market stall – come along and get your red ribbon.
  • 2 minute silence in the Market Square at 1.12pm.
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Freddie Mercury: Rock Star, Legend, Legacy!

An artist who needs no introduction is Freddie Mercury, the Queen vocalist and solo performer extraordinaire who, for many, will go down as the finest rock front man of all time.

Born Farrokh Balsara, the singer changed his stage name upon joining the group Smile – which featured Roger Taylor and Brian May – in 1971. Altering the name to Queen and added bassist John Deacon, the group released their self-titled debut album in 1973 to little fanfare, instead making a true breakthrough with third album ‘Sheer Heart Attack‘ in 1974, which featured the UK number two charting single ‘Killer Queen’. All that was to be superseded however with the following year’s ‘A Night At The Opera’ which featured mega selling hit ‘Bohemian Rhapsody‘ which went on to spend nine weeks at the top of the UK Single Charts and also earned the band their first top 10 hit on the US Billboard Charts.

From there the rest was history, with the band eventually releasing 18 number one albums and 18 number one singles with estimates on complete worldwide albums sold ranging 150 million to a staggering 300 million copies.

Though the band as a whole were superb, a lot of acclaim has always fallen on the charismatic Mercury, an opera-trained singer whose stunning range, combined with his extroverted on stage theatrics made him one of the most-loved stars in music, with notable performances including two shows at Wembley Stadium, London for Live Aid in 1985 and on what would amount to Queen’s final tour in 1986.

Freddie Mercury still influences the music scene like no one else of his time. In 2009, he was voted “the biggest rock singer of all time”, by the readership of ‘Classic Rock‘ magazine. The ‘Rolling Stone‘ lists him on rank 18 of the greatest singers in history. Freddie Mercury will never be forgotten and he was right when he said: “I won’t be a rock star. I will be a legend.”

Fans wishing to hear new material from Freddie should brace themselves for a treat as new posthumous material is due to be released next year.  Queen‘s Brian May and Roger Taylor have revealed they’re in possession of recordings by Freddie Mercury singing with another legendary artist: Michael Jackson.  The Jackson estate has granted Taylor and May permission to work with the material, recorded in 1983 at Michael’s house. At the time Queen were touring America.

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the sad death of Freddie Mercury.

Freddie Mercury caught HIV in 1987.  Back then, HIV treatments were not as effective as they are today and he eventually died of AIDS.  Although the media was full of speculations about his state of health for a long time, he admitted to having the disease on 23rd November 1991.   Within 24 hours after this announcement, he had fallen into a coma and passed away.  He died of pneumonia in consequence of his HIV infection. He did not live to see the Olympic Games in 1992, which he composed the official anthem ‘Barcelona’ with opera singer Montserrat Caballé.

As one of the highest-profile victims of AIDS, Freddie Mercury’s death drew greater media awareness of the virus and started the fight to remove the stigma, discrimination and prejudice from a disease which could affect anyone.

Yes Freddie, you were a rock star, you were a legend, and now you’re a legacy! Thank you Freddie. We love you.

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Information about the effort and influence surrounding HIV/AIDS prominent activists is available here.