A worrying new report from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) shows there has been a rise in sexually transmitted diseases and significantly new HIV infections amongst gay and bisexual men in the UK.

The new figures show that around 96,000 people in the UK are living with HIV. In 2011 the report shows that 6280 new diagnoses were reported. 3010 of those new diagnoses were gay or bisexual men.

For the first time since 1999 diagnoses of HIV in men who have sex with men have surpassed infections of heterosexuals and are at their highest levels since records began.

In a press release from the Terrance Higgins Trust they wrote: “In the UK, gay and bisexual men remain one of the groups most affected by HIV. However, more than a quarter of men with HIV are undiagnosed and therefore at risk of serious health problems. Someone who is diagnosed late, after the point at which they should have started treatment, is ten times more likely to die within a year of receiving their diagnosis than someone who tests in good time. In addition, undiagnosed HIV is a key factor driving the HIV epidemic, with the majority of onward transmission coming from those who are unaware that they have the infection.”

Paul Ward, Deputy Chief Executive at Terrence Higgins Trust, said,

‘It may sound strange, but – to drive HIV infections down – we need first to see new diagnoses come up. Currently it’s estimated that there are 25,000 people with undiagnosed HIV in this country, a large proportion of them gay men. It is these undiagnosed infections that are driving the UK’s epidemic, as someone who is tested and on treatment is far less likely to pass the virus on than someone who is unaware of their status’.

The key findings of the report are:

·       The number of people living with HIV in the UK hit 96,000 in 2011, with 6,280 new diagnoses that year. 

·       In 2011, there were an estimated 3,010 new diagnoses among gay men*, surpassing the number of diagnoses among heterosexuals for the first time since 1999 and the highest annual figure since records began. This means the proportion of gay men living with HIV is one in 20. 

·       Just under half (48%) of people diagnosed with HIV in the same period were heterosexuals (predominantly African men and women). 

·       Among gay men, nearly a quarter (23%) were acquired recently (i.e. infected in the previous 4-6 months) which shows, worryingly, a high proportion of new infections are still taking place.  This compares to 9% of heterosexual men and 8% of heterosexual women. 

·       Among gay men, younger men were more likely to be recently infected compared to older men, with 27% of newly diagnosed gay men aged 35 or under recently infected, compared to 14% among gay men over 50

·       A fifth of gay men with HIV (20%) remain unaware of their infection.

·       Gay men are significantly less likely to be diagnosed late than heterosexuals, with 35% of gay men diagnosed late compared to while 56% of heterosexual women and 64% of heterosexual men.  

·       In 2011, 70% of all STI clinic attendees received an HIV test, but this increased to 83% among gay men. 

 

HPA and THT advise that men who are having sex with men test for sexually transmitted diseases regularly – at least annually and every three months if having unprotected sex with new or casual partners.

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If you’re worried but too embarrassed to talk about your sexual health why not try our online clinic in partnership with 56 Dean Street. The first column will be out on the 1st December 2012. www.thegayuk.com/sexualhealth

 

  • If you have symptoms you should contact your local sexual health clinic for advice.

 

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