For those who did not know, but today is World Aids Day. Therefore, Cornwall Council is joining other authorities across all of the South West to raise a flag to mark this occasion. The joint flying of the flags is in support of a bid to make stigma history for HIV.
For my generation we were bombarded with the ‘Don’t die of ignorance’ films, which were shown on national tv. However, over the year’s, HIV and Aids has been lost its prominence, and is seen as one of those illnesses that has a cure for it. Yet Aids and HIV has not gone away.
There are more than 100,000 people estimated to be living with HIV in the UK though 17% are unaware they have the infection. This is important as individuals unaware they have HIV are unable to get the treatment they need to keep them well, they may also pass the virus on unknowingly. Testing for HIV and STI’s is easy. For HIV it is a simple blood test.
HIV affects people of all ages, including older adults. Effective treatments now mean that life expectancy has significantly increased for people with HIV. The majority of people with HIV who are accessing care are on treatment (96%), and 94% taking treatment have suppressed the virus meaning they are highly unlikely to pass it on. However, wearing a condom is still the safest way to stay safe.
The number of people living with HIV is increasing in the UK. This is as more people continue to be diagnosed and people are living longer as a result of treatment. In 2015, 88,769 people were living with diagnosed HIV and had accessed care (61,097 men and 27,672 women). This represents a 73% rise in the last decade and an increase of 4% over the preceding year. Most people newly diagnosed with HIV were aged between 25 and 49 years in 2015. In Cornwall the age range of people diagnosed with HIV was 28-85 years.
Late HIV diagnosis is an important issue in Cornwall with 47% of the Cornish residents diagnosed with HIV in 2013-2015, diagnosed at a late stage of infection. Late diagnosis is when an individual’s immune system has already been severely damaged meaning they can become seriously ill.
Heterosexual men and women:
- 39% new diagnoses in the UK were among heterosexual men and women in 2015;
- The number of heterosexuals who acquired HIV in the UK remains high and is higher than infections acquired abroad;
- The number of women/girls newly diagnosed with HIV in the UK has decreased in the last decade from 2,940 to 1,537 in 2015;
- Among heterosexuals aged 15-44 in the UK, almost one in every 1,000 is estimated to be living with HIV with higher prevalence’s among black African heterosexual men (one in 56) and women (one in 22);
- Throughout the decade the two largest groups of people who accessed HIV care remained white MSM and black African heterosexuals. There has also been an increase in white heterosexuals (which has almost doubled from 5,302 in 2006 to 10,417 in 2015).
Men who have sex with men:
- While the vast majority of MSM do not have HIV, gay, bisexual men and other men who have sex with men (MSM) continue to be the group most affected by HIV infection’
- Among MSM aged 15-44, one in 20 is estimated to be living with HIV;
- Just over half of people diagnosed with HIV in 2015 were MSM (54%).
For Cornwall the stats are:
- 66 people in every 1000 are accessing care for HIV in Cornwall (compared to 2.26 in every 1000 in England).
- The HIV prevalence rate is much lower than that of England as a whole.
- The number of people living in Cornwall with HIV has increased by 24% since 2010 (148).
- HIV incidence (the number newly diagnosed) is very low in Cornwall at 2.4 per 100,000 compared to the England average at 12.1.
- It’s important to remember that an estimated 17% remain undiagnosed nationally so the true number of people living with HIV in Cornwall is likely to be higher.
- Men who have sex with men: 14% of MSM living with HIV are undiagnosed.
- Black African heterosexuals: 16% in men and 12% in women.
- All heterosexuals: 21% unaware of their diagnosis (1 in 5) PLHIV unaware of their status, rising to 24% outside of London.
- Late diagnosis continues to be an issue in Cornwall at 47% (2013-2015) it is higher than the England rate at 39% but has decreased since 2010-2012 (68.4%).
How to get a HIV test? Go to an open-access sexually transmitted infection (STI) clinic like the sexual health hub at Treliske or one of the community sexual health clinics. Ask your GP for a HIV test – nowadays there is no need for a lengthy discussion about the test, it just involves having blood taken. Ask online for a self-sampling kit (www.freetesting.hiv.) that can be sent to you at home.
It was good to see others support World Aids Day at the Council: