One in five people in the UK with HIV are unaware they have the infection according to a report.
The report by Public Health England comes at the start of National HIV Testing Week, which encourages people who might be at risk from HIV to get tested early.
National HIV Testing Week runs until 29 November. It is followed by World Aids Day on 1 December. Both are important dates for raising awareness of the benefits of testing and encouraging people who might be at risk of HIV to get tested.
According to the report, in 2012 some 98,400 people across the UK were living with HIV and 21,900 were unaware of their infection. There were 6,360 new HIV diagnoses in the same year, a slight increase from 6,222 on the previous year. Around half of these newly diagnosed people were identified late. In Cambridgeshire, there are 460 people living with HIV.
People living with HIV can expect a near normal life span and better results from treatment if they are diagnosed promptly. Those diagnosed late however have a ten-fold increased risk of death in the first year after being tested as having HIV. Early diagnosis and treatment is also important as it reduces the risk of the infection being passed to others.
Anyone who lives in Cambridgeshire can get a free, fast, confidential HIV test by visiting their GP or sexual health clinics. There is no need for lengthy discussion about the test, it just involves having a simple blood test.
Cllr Tony Orgee, Cambridgeshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, said: “I fully support the National HIV Testing Week campaign. AIDS can have a massive impact on the length and quality of life if it goes unidentified and untreated. It’s vital the message around testing early for HIV is spread far and wide. The public, clinicians, commissioners and community leaders need to work together to ensure that this message is heard by all those who are at risk of HIV.”
Dr Liz Robin, Cambridgeshire County Council’s Director of Public Health, added: “The benefits of early testing are great for individuals and communities. It ensures that treatment is commenced as soon as possible so that people can go on to live normal lives and there is reduced risk of the infection spreading in the community.