East Lancashire doctors concerned hundreds could unknowingly be living with HIV

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CONCERNS have been raised that hundreds of people across Lancashire and Cumbria are unaware they have contracted HIV.

Public Health England has published figures suggesting there has been another increase in HIV across the region. An estimated 1,493 people were living with the virus in 2013.

This increased from 1,450 in 2012, with about a quarter of the cases undiagnosed — meaning an increased likelihood of the virus being passed on to others.

The Terrence Higgins Trust urged people who may be at risk to get tested.

The trust raised concern that only 72 people were newly diagnosed last year, down from 83 in 2012.

Jackie Redding, the charity’s service director for the North of England, said: “Reducing undiagnosed HIV is the most important step we can take in our efforts to halt the spread of the epidemic.

“Once people are diagnosed, they can access life-saving treatment that will keep them fit and well.

“People who are on treatment are far less likely to pass on the virus unwittingly.”

But in east Lancashire, sexual-health bosses said HIV tests have increased year on year, from 143 in 2006 to 4,829 in 2013.

Service manager Sue Capstick said: “The trust’s community-education sexual-health team work with schools, colleges and partner agencies to provide workshops and support packs.

“This supports them to have conversations around sensitive issues such as sexuality, HIV testing and prevention.

“The packs also highlight potential risks around sexually-transmitted infections and HIV with messages on how to avoid them, such as condom use.

“The team works with GPs within east Lancashire, offering bespoke workshops regarding HIV and testing available.

“This has helped not only to raise awareness of HIV but increase testing uptake among patients.

“As a result, across the whole of Lancashire in 2013, 91 per cent of new patients of sexual-health clinics were offered an HIV test, which is five per cent higher than the national average.”

Data published this year showed there were 93 Blackburn with Darwen people, aged between 15 and 59, who were accessing HIV-related health care in 2013.

There were 37 in Burnley, 37 in Pendle, 34 in Rossendale, 30 in Hyndburn and 13 in Ribble Valley.

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