AIDS and HIV-related illnesses are killing people in West Sussex because they are not getting diagnosed early enough.
The condition can now be managed effectively due to huge advances in treatment, butt if someone with the virus does not get tested early enough and therefore diagnosed, the outcome can be bleak.
Nationally more than half of people diagnosed with HIV have their illness identified at an early stage, giving them a good chance of managing their illness well. In West Sussex that figure is nearer 30 per cent.
Late diagnosis is associated with a tenfold increased risk of dying within a year.
One of the problems is the many myths that are held about HIV and AIDS, namely that HIV mainly affects mainly black people, particularly from Africa, and gay people.
Yet in West Sussex, just over half of people being treated for HIV are heterosexual and the majority are white.
Worthing is classed as a ‘high prevalence’ area nationally, with Adur not far behind.
Worthing has 2.2 cases per 1,000 people aged 15-59 and there are 129 residents in Worthing aged between 15 and 50 who are accessing HIV related care.
Adur has 1.9 cases per 1,000 and 65 residents being treated, while Arun has 0.93 cases per 1,000 and 72 people currently being treated.
The Health Protection Agency estimates that 24 per cent of people with HIV infection remain unaware of their diagnosis.
Dr Emma Rutland, a consultant in GUM and HIV medicine at Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “People do not think that we see many cases of HIV in West Sussex, it just isn’t on their radar. But that gives us a significant problem with late diagnosis, which is a terrible shame because these days HIV is actually a very manageable condition – if we catch it soon enough.”