Alert after figures reveal shock HIV diagnosis rise

DOZENS more patients are being diagnosed with HIV in North Somerset than in 2007.

New figures released by the Health Protection Agency show 87 cases were diagnosed in the area five years ago, but that has since risen by more than a quarter.

Released to coincide with England’s first ever National HIV Testing Week, statistics show there were 4,133 people living with the illness in the South West in 2011, a quarter of which were undiagnosed and at risk of serious health problems.

The latest figures for North Somerset show an overall increase from 83 diagnosed cases in 2007 to 103 in 2011. The numbers steadily increased during that period, aside from a slight decrease from 104 to 103 from 2010 to 2011.

The new regional figures show there were 303 people newly-diagnosed in the South West in 2011, an increase of 24 per cent from 2010.

Steve Jones, from the UK’s largest HIV and sexual health charity, The Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “Thirty years on from the start of the epidemic, public understanding of HIV has dropped to a worrying level.

“As a result, we are starting to see a significant increase in the number of heterosexuals contracting the virus in the UK.

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“It is important that everyone, no matter their age or background, understands that nobody is immune from infection.

“We all have a responsibility to get our understanding of the virus up to a basic level, and know how to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe.”

There are now an estimated 100,000 people living with HIV in the UK, the highest number since the epidemic began.