Worthing’s HIV rate up more than 300 per cent in last decade

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THE proportion of people living with HIV in Worthing has increased by more than 300 per cent in the last decade.

Currently, one in 365 people in Worthing is living with HIV – up from one in 1,333 back in 2002.

UK-wide, the figure is one in 650.

Worthing has the 22nd highest prevalence of people with the condition outside of London, while Brighton is second, with around one in 105 living with the condition.

Dr Emma Rutland, consultant in HIV medicine at Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “HIV is now a manageable condition, and with early diagnosis and treatment patients are able to live long and healthy lives. “Unfortunately in Sussex, like many other parts of the country, too many people end up getting tested late, when they have already become unwell and effective treatment becomes more challenging. Early testing, diagnosis and treatment significantly reduces the risk of people with HIV suffering ill-health and passing the infection on to others.”

The National AIDS Trust (NAT), which released the figures, is calling on Worthing and West Sussex councils to prioritise sexual health after cental Government handed the public health budget to West Sussex in April.

Deborah Jack, chief executive of the NAT, said: “West Sussex County Council has been allocated £26,698,000 by the Government to spend on public health over the next year, but, worryingly, within that budget there will be no ring-fencing for HIV. Worthing’s councillors need to push for a strong commitment to HIV from West Sussex County Council to ensure HIV prevention and testing continues to receive the necessary funding.

“Disinvestment in HIV prevention and testing would seriously harm public health, especially in an area like Worthing which has a high rate of HIV.”

A West Sussex County Council spokeswoman said: “One of the public health objectives is around earlier diagnosis of HIV, and we are working with the service providers to make sure we are appropriately screening and getting the messages, including awareness of HIV and general sexual health, to help the general population to protect their sexual health.”

The NAT is calling on people to boost HIV awareness by holding a birds and bees bake aware event.

For resources to hold a bake aware event, visit www.hivaware.org.uk/act-aware/ideas-for-fundraising/fundraise/bake-aware.php