Rates of HIV infection and AIDS have risen dramatically in the last seven years among London’s homosexual men according to a homosexualist health group. The Terrence Higins Trust (THT) released figures yesterday showing that one in seven men in the London “gay scene” are infected with the HIV virus, compared to about one in 20 gay men nationally. The figure rose from 299 new cases in 2000 to 710 new cases in 2007.
According to the AIDS awareness agency AVERT, at the end of 2008 gay men were estimated to account for 38% of HIV cases in the UK, despite their making up only a tiny percentage of the overall population.
The University College London and the Health Protection Agency (HPA) conducted the Gay Men’s Sexual Health Survey in 2009 in 36 London venues such as bars, clubs and bathhouses. The survey found a 15.2 percent HIV prevalence in such venues between December 2008 and February 2009 among 1,251 men tested.
Alan Wardle, Head of Health Promotion at THT said that men in the “gay scene” are “genuinely shocked” by the figure. “Yet the reality is that, after Brighton, London has the highest HIV prevalence of any city in the UK.”
The HPA presented its findings at the International AIDS conference in Vienna today.
The agency said that it has also found that AIDS infection rates have jumped 60 percent among those over 50 between 2000 and 2007.
Ruth Smith, a senior HIV scientist at the HPA’s Centre for Infections said, “We estimate that nearly half of older adults diagnosed between 2000 and 2007 were infected at age 50 or over and this highlights the importance of HIV testing – whatever your age.”
The agency reported that in 2008 there were 7,382 new diagnoses of HIV in the UK, with an estimated 32 percent of adults over 15 years being diagnosed later in life.
Despite the evident failure of condom campaigns to curb HIV rates either in Britain or in the developing world, both the Terrence Higgins Trust and the Health Protection Agency concluded that “safe sex” was the only solution. Wardle said that the THT is launching the “One in Seven” campaign to “remind” men in the London gay scene to use condoms.
Ruth Smith said, “We must continually reinforce the safe sex message – using a condom with all new or casual partners is the surest way to ensure people do not become infected with a serious sexually transmitted infection such as HIV.”