Public Health England West Midlands has published its latest statistics for the region, which show more than a ten per cent increase in cases of HIV during 2015.
“These are concerning figures which should send us all a message that more needs to be done to prevent and diagnose HIV,” says Dr Steve Taylor, lead consultant of the Heartlands HIV Service.
“Preventing onwards transmission via awareness-raising and engaging public health campaigns will have an obvious impact on the number of reported new cases,” he added. “But, because individuals living with HIV who are on treatments are today practically non-infectious, testing and early diagnosis have also become key means of achieving the same end.
“This is the second consecutive year showing a significant increase in HIV cases. We must all redouble our efforts to ensure that there is not a third.”
Public Health England West Midlands full press release is below.
The West Midlands saw a 10.5% increase in cases of HIV in 2015, with 473 people newly diagnosed compared to 428 cases in 2014. This makes a cumulative total of 8,380 cases diagnosed in the region since the year 2000, with 863 cases presenting so late as to be diagnosed with AIDS, 38 of these in 2015.
This is the second year in a row that numbers have increased, following years of decline since a peak in 2006, which saw 562 diagnoses in the West Midlands.
While the regional figure represents just 7.76% of the national number of people newly diagnosed with HIV (6,095 new diagnoses in 2015 in England), this increase is still worrying and reinforces the importance of practicing safe sex and getting tested for HIV. Current figures show there were 6,146 people being treated for HIV in the West Midlands in 2015.
Simon Walker, PHE West Midlands sexual health lead, said: “Any increase in new diagnoses of HIV is concerning, though we have to take into account more people may be going to get tested, so this may be a factor.
“In the West Midlands, heterosexual contact remains the largest risk group, accounting for around 45% of cases in 2015, and an increase of around 15% in the last two years. Meanwhile, new diagnoses reported in men who have sex with men (MSM) rose by around 10% from 2014 to 2015, with diagnosis rates currently more than double those seen from 1984 to 2002.
“An estimated 101,200 people were living with HIV in the UK in 2015. Of these, around one in eight (13,500 people) were unaware they were living with the virus and at risk of passing it on. This highlights the importance of being tested if you think you might have been at risk. Testing is the only way to find out if you have HIV and is central to prevention efforts to eliminate AIDS-related deaths and to reduce HIV transmission.
Early diagnosis via testing means people can expect to live a long healthy life by accessing effective treatment with antiretroviral drugs. Treatment is now so effective that it can also prevent the virus being passed on.
“HIV continues to disproportionately affect minority groups such as men who have sex with men (MSM) and black Africans, so increasing HIV testing uptake within these communities is necessary to reduce health inequalities.
“However, anyone who is sexually active can acquire HIV regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, sexuality or religion.