New gay HIV infections at highest rate ever

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The latest figures released today from the Health Protection Agency reveal that the number of gay and bisexual men diagnosed with HIV in the UK is at its highest rate since the start of the epidemic.

2,700 gay and bisexual men were newly diagnosed last year, the highest number ever.

Across the UK 1 in 20 gay and bisexual men are now living with HIV and estimates suggest this figure is as high as 1 in 10 in London.

The increase in diagnosis comes at a time when the National AIDS Trust claims funding for HIV prevention is inadequate.

In the past 10 years the number of people being seen for HIV care has more than trebled, but a recent National AIDS Trust survey into Primary Care Trusts revealed that in the same period the amount spent on HIV prevention has decreased.

Deborah Jack, Chief Executive of the National AIDS Trust, commented:

“For over ten years the government and health services have been failing to bring HIV in the UK under control and diagnoses among gay and bisexual men continue to rise.

“Funding for prevention and testing must urgently be increased and the Government must make informed policy commitments to control the epidemic.

“But the gay community must also act – gay men, gay businesses, the gay media all must respond to what is in essence a public health crisis for gay men.

“If amongst the general public there was over one in 20 with such a serious infectious disease, it would dominate politics and priorities. If we want wider society to act on HIV, the gay community must take the lead.”

7,800 people were diagnosed last year, and the numbers living with HIV in the UK were 73,000 by the end of 2006.

One in three people do not know they are infected.

Nick Partridge, Chief Executive of HIV and sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust, said that urgent action was required.

“Twenty five years on from the discovery of HIV this just isn’t good enough,” he said.

“We need to renew the fight and we need everyone, from the NHS to individuals, to join us.

“One in 20 gay men are now living with HIV, and levels of STIs are at their highest for 20 years. That’s why we’re launching a Call to Action to improve gay men’s sexual health.

“Gay men, businesses, politicians, media and the voluntary sector all need to play their part, and act now.”

THT has outlined five action points for each group and suggestions range from asking politicians to make sex and relationships education part of the core curriculum to asking gay men to have regular tests for sexually transmitted infections.

In 2006, an estimated 31,100 men who have sex with men (MSM) were living with HIV in the UK and there were approximately 2,700 new diagnoses. Around a third of people with HIV don’t know they have it.