The number of gay and bisexual men being diagnosed with HIV in the UK reached an ‘all-time high’ in 2011, with almost a quarter unaware they are affected.
The Health Protection Agency says nearly half of the 6,280 people diagnosed last year were men who had sex with men (MSM).
Of those diagnosed, two-thirds of the men infected had not gone to a sexual health clinic in the past three years.
Doctor Valerie Delpech, HPA head of HIV surveillance, said: ‘These figures are a reminder of how vital safe sex programmes remain.
‘Promoting HIV testing and condom use is crucial to tackling the high rates of transmission, late diagnosis and undiagnosed HIV still seen in the UK.’
The HIV report also found nearly half of all new diagnoses were acquired from heterosexual sex, and of these, over half were likely acquired in the UK in 2011 compared to 27% in 2002.
Africans remained at the higher HIV risk in 2011 with 37 per 1000 people living with the infection.
Now it has been thirty years since the arrival of HIV, some people are concerned that sexual safety standards and public awareness is slipping.
Deborah Jack, the chief executive of the National Aids Trust, said: ‘It is vitally important that gay men test at least once a year for STIs [sexually transmitted infections] and HIV, and every three months if they’re having unprotected sex with new or casual partners.
‘HIV-negative gay men diagnosed with an STI should really treat it as a wake up call.
‘You are at serious risk of getting HIV in the near future and need to take steps to prevent that happening – such as consistent condom use and reduction in number of sexual partners.’
Sir Nick Partridge, the chief executive at the Terrence Higgins Trust, said HIV is an entirely preventable condition.
‘Reducing undiagnosed HIV by encouraging those in high-risk groups to test more regularly is one way we can put the brakes on the spread of infection,’ he said.
Paul Ward, THT’s Deputy Chief Executive, added: ‘We have started to see a renewed emphasis on testing across the gay scene, with venue owners and other gay businesses joining the fight.
‘Sustained momentum on this is vital, and community initiatives like National HIV Testing Week can also hammer home the message that gay and bi men should be testing for HIV at least once every year.