The importance of being tested early for HIV is being highlighted by West Sussex County Council’s Public Health team ahead of National HIV testing week which runs from November 18-26.
Around 40 per cent of HIV cases are still diagnosed ‘late’ in the county, despite the increased availability of free home HIV testing kits.
If detected and treated early, HIV can be successfully managed and people who are HIV positive can live long and healthy lives.
In West Sussex, the number of HIV cases diagnosed ‘late’ in 2009-2011 was 49 percent which has been reduced to 40 percent in 2014-16.
However, there has been a slight increase in HIV prevalence in West Sussex as the number of cases per 1,000 of the population (aged 15-64) has risen from 1.43 in 2011 to 1.70 in 2016. This rise has been echoed nationally.
Amanda Jupp, County Council Cabinet Member for Adults and Health, said: “The importance of early HIV testing cannot be underestimated as it significantly reduces the impact of the infection.
“All ‘late’ diagnoses of HIV are now analysed in order to learn from missed opportunities, but we also need residents to stay alert to the risks. West Sussex residents cannot be complacent as our levels of diagnosed HIV in Adur, Crawley and Worthing are relatively high.
“We have a free HIV self-sampling scheme in place for our vulnerable groups – black African men and women as well as men who have sex with men – and would urge people to take this opportunity to be tested.”
The council says that seven in every 10 people living with HIV in the UK are currently black African men and women as well as men who have sex with men.
Positively, West Sussex is currently ranked seventh highest in the country for sexual and reproductive health outcomes as compared to other local authorities.
The ranking is based on:
• The conception rate of under 18s per 1,000 - 16.2 in 2015
• The number of prescribed long-acting reversible contraception (excluding injections) per 1,000 of females aged 15-44 - 64 in 2015
• The proportion of HIV testing carried out at specialist sexual health services - 78.4 per cent in 2016
• And, chlamydia detection rate per 100,000 in 15-24-year-olds - 1,878 in 2016.
People can be screened for all Sexually Transmitted Infections, including HIV, at Sexual Health Clinics in West Sussex, and can discuss concerns around HIV with their GP.