Tag Archives: hiv transmission

We really can beat HIV!

In October 2017, Public Health England reported an 18% drop in the numbers of people diagnosed with HIV in 2016 – this includes 18% fewer diagnoses among people of black African ethnicity compared to 2015.

This was the first time that we’ve had such a significant drop and it is was all down to a combination of things we can all do to make a difference.

New ways to stop the spread of HIV

The HIV epidemic started more than 30 years ago but recently there have been some big changes which we want to share with you and make sure everyone knows about. The number of HIV infections is starting to come down in some areas and this is down to a combined approach to stopping HIV. It’s no longer JUST about condoms, HIV treatment is now a part of our armoury against HIV – and part of protected sex.

Here’s how:

1) Treatment as Prevention (TasP)

If someone is on effective HIV treatment and has an ‘undetectable viral load’ they cannot pass on HIV. (The viral load is the amount of HIV measured in a blood test – most clinics in the UK classify undetectable as being below 20 copies/ml.)

We are saying this based on findings from the PARTNER study which looked at 888 gay and straight couples (and 58,000 sex acts) where one partner was HIV positive and on effective treatment and one was HIV negative. Results found that where the HIV positive partner had an undetectable viral load, there were no cases of HIV transmission whether they had anal or vaginal sex without a condom. It can take up to six months from starting treatment to become undetectable.

What this means: This is exciting news as it means treatment is a new way to stop the spread of HIV. Don’t forget though that sex without a condom still means you can get or pass on another sexually transmitted infection (STI) and can result in a pregnancy.

2) Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP)

PrEP is a course of HIV drugs taken by an HIV negative person who is at risk of getting HIV to lower their chance of becoming infected. When taken correctly, PrEP significantly reduces the chances of becoming HIV positive.

In England PrEP is not currently available on the NHS routinely, although 10,000 people will be taking it as part of the IMPACT trial, which started this autumn. In Scotland and Wales PrEP is available on the NHS.

What this means: If you are likely to be exposed to HIV, PrEP is another way to protect yourself.

3) Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP)

PEP is a month-long course of HIV medication taken by an HIV negative person after possible exposure to reduce the chance of getting HIV. When started in time (within 72 hours, but within 24 hours is best) PEP can stop HIV infection after sex without a condom (or other exposure) with someone who is infectious – but it does not work every time.

What this means: PEP is the third way HIV treatment can be used to protect yourself, a doctor will assess whether you will be eligible or not depending on the risk taken.

Testing and treatment saves lives

In terms of stopping HIV this new information is monumental and the facts show that people power can dramatically reduce HIV transmissions. Regular testing means more people with HIV will be diagnosed and taking treatment – so they will be less likely to become ill and less likely to pass on HIV.

Despite the good news of a drop in HIV rates, 54% of newly diagnosed black African people were diagnosed late in 2016, which means they will have an increased risk of developing an AIDS-defining illness. The British HIV Association (BHIVA) recommends everyone with HIV starts treatment when they are diagnosed. This is because a study called START found that starting straight away significantly reduced people’s chances of developing AIDS-related illnesses.

So the problem we have is that although lots of us are being diagnosed and getting onto treatment in time, an even bigger proportion are finding out they have HIV at a point where their immune systems have been damaged. Regular testing is the linchpin of reducing late diagnoses and keeping people well.

Additionally, people are extremely infectious when they are first infected with HIV which is why early diagnosis is so important – if you are on effective treatment and have an undetectable viral load you cannot pass on HIV.

The Simple Science

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It was identified in the early 1980s and belongs to a group of viruses called retroviruses.

HIV uses your CD4 cells to reproduce, destroying them in the process. These are important cells which co-ordinate your immune system to fight off illnesses and infections. As the number declines, you may not have enough to keep your immune system working properly. At the same time the amount of HIV in your body (the ‘viral load’) will usually increase.

Without treatment your immune system will not be able to work properly and protect you from ‘opportunistic infections’.

Effective treatment will mean your CD4 count increases and your viral load decreases – hopefully to ‘undetectable’ levels.

The viral load test shows how much HIV is in your body by measuring how many particles of HIV are in a blood sample. The results are given as the number of ‘copies’ of HIV per millilitre of blood – for example 200 copies/ml.

An ‘undetectable’ viral load does not mean there is no HIV present – HIV is still there but in levels too low for the laboratory test to pick up. Different laboratories may have different cut off points when classifying an undetectable viral load, however most clinics in the UK classify undetectable as being below 20 copies/ml.

Modern HIV treatment means that many people with HIV are living long, healthy lives and if you’re taking HIV medication and have an undetectable viral load you cannot pass on HIV.

Getting tested

Our Rapid HIV testing service is available Monday-Friday between 9am – 4pm.  You do not need an appointment.

The test is performed at our office on Regent Road, Leicester by qualified and experienced HIV testers.  The process usually takes around 20 minutes.

The test is free to ‘at risk groups’ and always confidential.  If you’re not at risk, we can refer you to an alternative service who will be able to provide you with a free HIV test.  You can still test with us for £20 or you may prefer a free Home Sampling kit or buy a Home Testing kit from BioSure for £29.95.  You can also find details of other testing services by clicking here.

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World Health Organisation records highest-ever number of new HIV cases in Europe

by Tom Robson

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said yesterday that in 2014 it had recorded the highest number of new HIV cases in its European Region, which also includes Central Asia, since the start of reporting in the 1980s.

Story via Reuters


WHO and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said in a statement that more than 142,000 people in WHO’s European Region were diagnosed with HIV last year with the increase coming from its eastern sector which comprises 15 countries including Russia, Ukraine and Central Asia.

The statement followed publication on Tuesday of findings by the United Nations AIDS programme which showed that new HIV infections overall had fallen by 35 percent since the peak of the three-decade-old pandemic in 2000.

“Heterosexual transmission is responsible for the increase in eastern Europe, and transmission through drug injection remains substantial,” the joint statement by the WHO and ECDC said.

ECDC spokeswoman Caroline Daamen said “eastern Europe” referred to the eastern part of WHO’s European Region, where the organisations said the number of new HIV cases had more than doubled in the past decade.

Apart from Russia, Ukraine and Central Asia, this region also includes countries of the Transcaucasus.

“In the EU and the EEA, sex between men is the predominant mode of HIV transmission. Two in three new HIV infections are among native-born Europeans,” the organisations said.

In the European Union generally, the number of people diagnosed with HIV was roughly unchanged over the past decade, ECDC’s Daamen said.

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HIV and the general election – what we should be talking about!


Press Release via NAM (@aidsmap)


NAM is an award-winning, community-based organisation, which works from the UK. They deliver reliable and accurate HIV information across the world to HIV-positive people and to the professionals who treat, support and care for them.

The National AIDS Trust and HIV Scotland have joined together to identify the key priorities for the new Parliament which will reduce HIV transmission and improve the lives of people living with HIV across the UK. They are calling on the next UK Government to commit to the following:

1. Retain the protections set out in the Human Rights Act, which acts as a safeguard to ensure people living with HIV can live a meaningful, safe and fulfilled life.

2. Introduce compulsory Sex and Relationships Education for all schools, which is inclusive of young people of all sexual orientations and gender identities and has appropriate sexual health and HIV content – in the first session of the new Parliament.*

3. Make HIV prevention a national public health priority, with effective funding, more varied testing options and access to the full range of prevention information and choices for all who need them.*

4. End HIV stigma in the NHS and social care through the training of all NHS and care staff.*

5. Ensure that people affected by HIV-related sickness or disability have the support they need by committing to the Disability Benefits Consortium’s Five Things You And Your Party Can Do For Disabled People.

Deborah Gold, chief executive of NAT (National AIDS Trust), said: ”HIV has already been talked about during the general election but now we need to focus on how we can decrease the number of people getting HIV in the UK, how we can reduce the shocking levels of stigma and ignorance around the disease, and how we can ensure people living with HIV are treated with respect and dignity.”

George Valiotis, chief executive of HIV Scotland, said: “The responsibility for many of the decisions that affect HIV are devolved in Scotland – sex and relationships education, HIV prevention and the training of NHS and care staff. Despite this, the new UK Government has a key role to play north of the border. Chiefly retaining a commitment to the Human Rights Act and ensuring dependable, fair access to welfare support for those who need it.”

The charities are asking voters to raise these issues when talking to candidates and to share the five HIV asks.  This is part of a cross-sector campaign, with Terrence Higgins Trust joining the call for the new Government to take action on sex and relationships education, HIV prevention for England and a stigma-free NHS. 

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The Criminalisation of HIV Transmission


Recently, LASS ran a workshop to provide up to date information about HIV & the Law.  The law relating to the transmission of HIV is based on case law, as courts have responded to new situations by expanding the scope of existing legislation and setting precedents. This case law can only be created through contested trials or appeals.

The law used in England and Wales to prosecute people for HIV transmission is the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 (OAPA 1861), under the sections relating to ‘grievous bodily harm’ (GBH). Proving GBH originally depended on physical evidence – the existence of a mark, but in the 1990s, in the context of concern about the ineffectiveness of the law to deal with high profile cases of stalking, courts succeeded in broadening the definition to include psychological harm. This subsequently meant that the transmission of disease could be defined as a crime. For a detailed timeline of legal developments, visit AIDSMAP for for more information.

Our recent workshop provided participants with up to date information about HIV and the law, using recent research by Sigma Research, updates from the National AIDS Trust (NAT) and policy statements by the British HIV Association and the Expert Advisory Group on AIDS. The workshop consisted of a presentation by Birkbeck lecturer Robert James, group work analysis of case studies, and action planning.

Presented here, is a summary record of the workshop which can also be used as a general briefing on the issues relating to HIV transmission and the law. This document will be of particular interest to people in the health profession, legal profession, police and CPS who may be involved with possible prosecutions. It is highly relevant for health workers and other support workers for clients who may have a blood borne virus or may be vulnerable to other transmitted infections.

Obtain your copy of the report by clicking here.

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Portrayal of HIV in the media & The Leveson Inquiry

The Prime Minister announced a two-part inquiry investigating the role of the press and police in the phone-hacking scandal, on 13 July 2011.

Lord Justice Leveson was appointed as Chairman of the Inquiry.  The first part will examine the culture, practices and ethics of the media. In particular, Lord Justice Leveson will examine the relationship of the press with the public, police and politicians.  He is assisted by a panel of six independent assessors with expertise in key issues being considered by the Inquiry.

The Inquiry will make recommendations on the future of press regulation and governance consistent with maintaining freedom of the press and ensuring the highest ethical and professional standards.

Lord Justice Leveson opened the hearings on Monday 14 November 2011, saying: “The press provides an essential check on all aspects of public life. That is why any failure within the media affects all of us. At the heart of this Inquiry, therefore, may be one simple question: who guards the guardians?”

A major concern for people living with HIV in the UK and the organisations that support them is the number of articles in the media that sensationalise and stigmatise HIV and unfairly represent individuals living with the virus.

Stories in the media can have a positive effect in increasing people’s awareness of HIV and what it means to live with HIV. However media reports about HIV are often stigmatising or inaccurate. Many stories contribute to a culture of blame about HIV transmission, focusing on so-called irresponsible sexual activity, use judgmental language and stereotype people living with HIV.

Improving the media’s coverage of HIV issues is vital to tackle discrimination experienced by people living with HIV, improve people’s knowledge and help prevent the spread of the virus.

Portrayal of HIV in the media

There are very few public figures who are open about their HIV status, and currently no established characters living with HIV in mainstream soaps or television dramas.   NAT are calling for proactive initiatives to portray realistic HIV stories in the media, with the BBC and Channel 4 taking the lead as part of their statutory duty to promote disability equality.

As well as in the media, NAT would like to see greater, and supportive, visibility for people living with HIV both in cultural representation and public life.

NAT recently made a submission to the Leveson Inquiry, which is examining the culture, practices and ethics of the media, and made the case for the need to tackle the frequent inaccuracies still written about HIV in the press and the use of stigmatising and prejudicial language.  You can read NAT’s submission to the Leveson Inquiry here.

Guidelines on Reporting HIV

NAT and the National Union of Journalists have jointly produced Guidelines on Reporting HIV to help journalists make sure that the articles that they write are not misleading and do not encourage negative perceptions about HIV.

You can read what NAT is saying to editors and journalists to improve reporting on HIV here.

Press Gang

Press Gang is an online group of people living with HIV who are interested in challenging stigmatising coverage in the media and making their voices heard. The National AIDS Trust keep Press Gang members informed of any stigmatising or inaccurate coverage and give them advice on how to challenge it.

Every day they scan many newspapers online and check other media for mentions of HIV and AIDS. Any articles that are identified as stigmatising or inaccurate are sent to Press Gang members via email as a ‘stigma alert’.

Members are then encouraged to write a letter to the editor or add a comment online pointing out why this article is stigmatising or inaccurate and informing readers about the realities of living with HIVin the UK.

If you’re living with HIV and are interested in challenging stigma in the media then you can find out more about find out more about joining ‘Press Gang’ here.

What’s in the news?

NAT scans the media in the UK and worldwide daily for stories relating to HIV and produces a summary of the main stories of the week, with online links to the original article. You can read the latest news here.  Where they identify inaccurate reporting of HIV, they always challenge it.

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