Record 7,000 new HIV diagnoses in UK in 2003

Michael Carter
Published: 13 February 2004

A record 7,000 people were newly diagnosed with HIV in the UK in 2003, according to figures published by the Health Protection Agency (HPA) on February 12th.

This represents an increase of 20% on 2002. Data collected so far show that in 2003, 5,047 new HIV diagnoses were made, an increase on 4,204 on the same time last year. However, when all reports are received, the total figure is expected to increase to over 7,000, and the HPA is warning of an impending HIV crisis.

After remaining stable for over a decade at approximately 1,500 a year, new HIV diagnoses in gay men are expected to reach a record 2,000 in 2003. Reports so far received by the HPA show that 1,414 gay men have so far been diagnosed HIV-positive in 2003, an increase on 1,195 this time last year. Late reports are expected to bring the figure to well in excess of 2,000. What’s more, at least 10% of the gay men diagnosed with HIV in 2003 are thought to have been recently infected, showing that HIV transmission is continuing amongst gay men.

New heterosexual diagnoses of HIV increased by a quarter in 2003, and although 80% involved infection with HIV outside the UK, over 250 heterosexuals acquired HIV in this country, a figure that is expected to increase to 400 once all reports are in.

Dr Barry Evans of the HPA attributed the increases in the number of new HIV diagnoses to a rise in the number of some sexually transmitted infections that can facilitate HIV transmission, increased HIV testing, and migration to the UK from countries with a high HIV prevalence. However, he added that “increases in unsafe sex are undoubtedly the main driving force behind this epidemic. Changing people’s sexual behaviour so they use a condom with all new and casual partners is one of the most effective ways of reversing this trend. People must be encouraged to take responsibility for their own sexual health.”

Key measures being recommended by the HPA to counter the increase in HIV cases include enhanced HIV prevention efforts targeted at both the general population and key HIV risk groups, including gay men, young people and HIV-positive individuals. Waiting times at sexual health and GUM clinics also need shortening, the HPA is warning, so that people can obtain quicker diagnosis and treatment. As a third of people infected with HIV are thought to be unaware of the fact, the HPA is warning that further efforts need to be taken to encourage gay men to test for HIV.

Further information on this website

Community Consensus Statement on Access to HIV Treatment and its Use for Prevention

Together, we can make it happen

We can end HIV soon if people have equal access to HIV drugs as treatment and as PrEP, and have free choice over whether to take them.

Launched today, the Community Consensus Statement is a basic set of principles aimed at making sure that happens.

The Community Consensus Statement is a joint initiative of AVAC, EATG, MSMGF, GNP+, HIV i-Base, the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, ITPC and NAM/aidsmap

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