National AIDS Trust: GPs are failing to test gay men for HIV

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The National AIDS Trust (NAT) has warned that too many doctors are failing to offer HIV tests for gay and bisexual men.

NAT has commented on new HIV diagnosis figures released by Public Health England (PHE) showing the HIV epidemic among gay and bisexual men in the UK shows no sign of abating.

3,250 gay and bisexual men were diagnosed with HIV in 2012, the highest annual figure since the start of the epidemic.

A report by HPE shows despite clear national guidelines recommending GPs and hospital doctors in areas with high rates of HIV routinely offer tests to all new registered patients and general medical admissions to hospital, most are failing to do so.

At the same time it was found 16% of gay and bisexual men do not have an HIV test when attending a sexual health clinic.

NAT Chief Executive Deborah Jack said: “If this is case how many opportunities have been missed along the way to offer testing? We know at least half of new transmissions originate from people who don’t know they have HIV. It is important that gay and bisexual men are being pro-actively offered an HIV test at least annually by their sexual health clinic or GP.”

Around one in five (18%) gay and bisexual men with HIV remain unaware that they have the virus.

Paul Ward, acting chief executive at sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “Reducing undiagnosed HIV is now the single most important step we can take to halt the spread of HIV within the gay community. Within the last year, thanks in part to initiatives like National HIV Testing Week, we’ve seen a large increase in the number of gay men coming forward for testing.

“This has helped drive down the proportion of undiagnosed HIV in the community. Hundreds more gay men with HIV now know their status, helping them access life-saving treatments and drastically reducing the chance of them passing the virus on.”

Earlier this month, a senior London councillor, representing boroughs across the capital, described rising HIV infection rates in London as “alarming”.

London boroughs account for 18 out of 20 local authorities with the highest diagnosed prevalence rate of HIV in the country. New diagnoses of HIV rose by 8% in London from 2,615 in 2011 to 2,832 in 2012, reversing a downward trend since 2003.