Northamptonshire health experts campaign for earlier HIV diagnoses

Testing for HIV
Testing for HIV

Health experts at Northamptonshire County Council are calling for earlier diagnoses of HIV cases after it was revealed that the county is 17 per cent above the national average for late diagnoses.

Late HIV diagnoses means that the virus has already begun to damage an individual’s immune system by the time they have tested positive.

In Northamptonshire 61.8 per cent of people received a late diagnosis of HIV between 2011-2013 - 16.8 points higher than the national figure of 45 per cent.

The county’s health chiefs say that individuals who are test late for the disease are 10 times more likely to die within a year of being diagnosed.

To tackle the issue, which increases costs and demands on social care services, public health is working with sexual health services as Northampton and Kettering Hospitals to promote the use of HIV testing to decrease the number of people who receive a late diagnosis.

Councillor Robin Brown, county council cabinet member for public health and wellbeing said: “Testing for HIV is vital to ensure that people receive an early diagnosis and therefore are more likely to live a long and healthy life.

“A late diagnosis means people are ten times more likely to die in the first year of diagnosis plus if they do not know that they have HIV, they are also risking transmitting the infection to others.

“That’s why public health are working with health organisations in the county to promote HIV testing and improve Northamptonshire’s rates of late diagnosis, and in doing so will help ensure that people can be effectively treated and prevent onward transmission.”

Guidelines from the British HIV Association (BHIVA), the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) and the British Infection Society (BIS) aim to increase the offer of HIV testing that was recommended by the Chief Medical Officer in September 2007.

The guidelines state that offering HIV testing to all men and women aged 15 to 59 who register with a GP in areas where the prevalence of diagnosed HIV infections is greater than two in 1,000 would decrease the proportion of late diagnosis.

In Northamptonshire, these guidelines are applicable in Corby, where the prevalence in 2013 was 2.91 in 1,000 and in Northampton where it was 2.82 in 1,000.