Be aware of HIV say gay MPs

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Two government ministers have appealed to the gay community to increase awareness of HIV.

A new Terrence Higgins Trust campaign targeting undiagnosed HIV+ gay men was launched today, World AIDS Day.

‘THIVK you’re still negative?’ includes adverts in the gay press, condom packs, posters and scratch cards. It is funded by the Department of Health.

Official figures put the number of men of gay men in Britain who have HIV but are unaware of their status at as many as 10,000.

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, according to the Health Protection Agency.

47% of HIV infected gay men who visit a sexual health clinic leave without being tested for HIV.

Ben Bradshaw, Minister of State at the Department of Health and Chris Bryant, Deputy Leader of the House of Commons, are both gay MPs.

Today they gave their backing the THT campaign.

“It’s important we continually increase awareness of this issue, particularly after last year’s figures from the Terrence Higgins Trust,” said Mr Bryant.

Today 20 people in the UK will be newly diagnosed with HIV; around the world, more than 10,000 will be newly infected.

An estimated 32,000 gay men were living with HIV in the UK in 2007 and almost a quarter were unaware of their infection, according to figures released last month by the Health Protection Agency.

There were an estimated 3,160 new HIV diagnoses among gay men in 2007, showing that numbers of new diagnoses are at their highest level ever since the mid 1980s.

Nearly 500 men (499) were diagnosed after the point at which treatment should have begun, meaning they missed out on the benefits associated with early diagnosis including prolonged life expectancy.

Early diagnosis continues to be the most important factor in mortality and morbidity linked to HIV.

It is also an important factor in the interruption of HIV transmission within the community.

Analysis of figures over the past five years has shown that a late diagnosis of HIV meant that gay men were 13 times more likely to die within one year of diagnosis compared to those diagnosed early.

The National AIDS Trust said the increase in diagnoses is likely to be because more gay men are getting tested for HIV.

Testing in sexual health clinics has increased, with 86% of gay men offered a test in sexual health clinics accepting compared to 84% in 2006.

The proportion of gay men unaware of their HIV infection has declined to 1 in 4 – compared with 1 in 3 previously.

Young gay men (under 25) are more likely to accept a HIV test compared with older gay men, 92% of under 25s accepted a test in a sexual health clinic in 2007 compared to 84% of older gay men.

Deborah Jack, Chief Executive of NAT (National AIDS Trust), said:

“We are seeing positive signs over recent years as slowly the messages about the importance of having HIV tests are getting through and more gay men are getting tested. Especially heartening is that young gay men are coming forward for tests.

“This testing culture among young men new on the scene needs to expand to older gay men who are most at risk from HIV.

“Given the record number of diagnoses we are seeing each year, the message remains HIV must be something that all gay men think about. Every gay man should get tested at least once a year.”