Local people at risk from HIV are being urged by Cambridgeshire County Council health experts to get tested early as part of National HIV Testing Week and World AIDS day.
Anyone who has put themselves at risk of acquiring a sexually transmitted infection should be tested early to ensure prompt treatment which can greatly improve the chances of having a near normal life span.
However, those who receive a late diagnosis face a ten-fold increased risk of death in the first year.
The call for early testing comes as a new national report from Public Health England (PHE) shows there are now nearly 110,000 people living with HIV (Human immunodeficiency virus) in the UK. Around a quarter of these (26,100) are unaware of their infection and at risk of passing on the virus to others though unprotected sex.
Although recently released statistics from PHE show that HIV prevalence in Cambridgeshire remains below the England average they also show that round half of newly diagnosed people in Cambridgeshire in 2013 were identified late.
The report has been published to mark the upcoming National HIV Testing Week running from the 22 November to 30 November, which is followed by World Aids Day on 1 December. Both awareness campaigns aim to get the message out about the benefits of early testing and encouraging people who might be at risk of HIV to get tested.
Effective treatment is supporting the continued decline in deaths among people with an HIV infection. People living with HIV can expect a near normal life span and better clinical outcomes if they are diagnosed promptly. Early diagnosis and treatment is important also to communities as it reduces the risk of the infection being passed to others.
Ask your GP for an HIV test “ nowadays there is no need for lengthy discussion about the test, it just involves having blood taken, or even a finger prick. Or go to an open access sexual health clinic. Some clinics are offering ˜fast-track' HIV testing see - http://www.aidsmap.com/hiv-test-finder. Or ask on-line for a self-sampling kit http://www.tht.org.uk/sexual-health/About-HIV/HIV-self-testing
Cambridgeshire County Councillor Kilian Bourke, Chairman of the Council's Health Committee said: "If you think you may be at risk of having HIV it is vital that you go for a test as soon as possible. An early diagnosis could be the difference between living a near normal life and one that could be drastically shortened if you leave it too late. Almost 25% of people with the virus are not aware of it and they are at significant risk if it remains undiagnosed.
œIt is vital that the early testing message is spread far and wide if we are to improve people's chances with this disease. The public, clinicians, commissioners and community leaders all need to work together to ensure that this message is heard by all those who are at risk of HIV. Please support this campaign.
Dr Liz Robin, Director of Public Health at Cambridgeshire County Council added: "The prevalence of diagnosed HIV in Cambridgeshire is lower than the national average. However, we are concerned that people in the county with diagnosed HIV are not coming forward to be tested at an early stages of the infection. National HIV Testing Week is a great opportunity to alert people who may be at risk of HIV to the benefits of testing “ for individuals and for the UK's public health. Members of the public, clinicians, commissioners and community leaders are urged to support and engage with the campaign.