Comment: The challenge for black and minority ethnic communities on World AIDS Day

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Naz Project London is the leading black and minority ethnic (BME) sexual health and HIV charity in London. This World AIDS Day, we are calling for a concerted effort to reduce the existing health inequalities amongst people living with HIV & AIDS.

The World AIDS Day overarching theme is ‘Getting to Zero’.

But BME people are still disproportionately affected by late HIV diagnosis.

According to the latest Health Protection Agency data published this week, 57% of all late HIV diagnoses are amongst Black & Minority Ethnic Communities.

People diagnosed late have a tenfold increased risk of dying within a year of diagnosis compared to those diagnosed promptly.

Of the 680 people with HIV who died, two thirds had been diagnosed late.

A total of 6,658 persons (4,510 men and 2,147 women) were diagnosed with HIV in 2010. An estimated 3,000 new diagnoses were made amongst men who have sex with men, the highest number since records began.

And yet we’ve seen 43% cut in funding for HIV prevention work and, worse still, essential services disappearing just at a time when front line services are needed most.

These are sobering figures when we are trying to ‘get to zero’. If we are really serious about tackling late diagnosis then we need to stop dismantling frontline infrastructure and invest in long term sustainability.

We need far more community based early testing campaigns with peer support strategies. And we urgently need to address the alarming fact that, 30 years on, the UK epidemic is still marked by inequality: its defining characteristics are sexual orientation and race.

Bryan Teixeira is the Chief Executive of Naz Project London. The Naz Project is the leading BME Sexual Health Charity in the UK.