Hundreds of people suffering with HIV in South Yorkshire

More than 600 people are being treated for HIV in Sheffield
More than 600 people are being treated for HIV in Sheffield
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More than 1,000 people in South Yorkshire received treatment for HIV last year, new figures have shown.

A total of 636 people in Sheffield, 212 in Doncaster, 199 in Barnsley and 168 in Rotherham accessed such services in 2015, according to official Government statistics.

Experts have warned that in the north of England, the 916 people who were newly diagnosed last year had late-stage HIV - higher than the UK average of 39 per cent.

There are more people than ever being seen for HIV care in the North of England - 14,504, compared to 13,804 in 2014.

The figures have been highlighted ahead of National HIV Testing Week, a campaign by HIV Prevention England, which is funded by Public Health England and coordinated by Terrence Higgins Trust.

Robert McKay, regional manager at the Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “These statistics show that National HIV Testing Week is needed more than ever in our region. The HIV epidemic hasn’t gone away; there are still alarming and unacceptable rates of late diagnoses.

“We already have a powerful tool that could help stop the epidemic in its tracks: the HIV test. People who know their status can get onto effective treatment, which stops the virus from being passed on.

“But too many people are missing out on HIV tests – perhaps due to fear of the result, or the assumption that they’re not at risk.

“These statistics remind us that HIV is an issue for everyone. As National HIV Testing Week approaches, we want to create a culture shift so that regular testing becomes the norm here in the North of England.”

Earlier in the year, Prince Harry took an HIV test in front of the world’s media - and almost immediately, Terrence Higgins Trust saw a five-fold increase in demand for self-test kits.

Robert said: “The ‘Prince Harry effect’ showed us just now much work there is still to be done to tackle stigma around testing for HIV - as soon as one high profile individual lifted the lid on how easy it is to take an HIV test, people’s fear temporarily evaporated.

“We hope that National HIV Testing Week is another chance to demystify the process of getting tested. HIV testing is free, fast, confidential and has never been easier. You can test in a hospital, sexual health clinic, at a community event, by post, or even at home.”

Dr Christian Jessen, a longstanding supporter of National HIV Testing Week, said: “I’m a fervent champion of National HIV Testing Week. I often find that people are really afraid of taking an HIV test – it can sound like a daunting prospect, but honestly it isn’t. Testing puts you in control.

“One in six people living with HIV do not know they have it and are therefore likely to unwittingly pass on the virus. On the other hand, those who get a positive result and onto effective treatment can live a long and healthy life, and cannot pass on HIV to others. It’s a no brainer.

“The challenge is now to bust the stigma that stops people getting tested in the first place. The sooner we can do that, the quicker we can stop HIV.”

Find out more about National HIV Testing Week (19 – 25 November) and how to get an HIV test at www.tht.org.uk/nationalhivtestingweek