HEALTH chiefs are warning Wigan residents to be aware of HIV after a fall in the number of people being tested coupled with a rise in infection rates.
The borough recorded 23 new cases of the potentially deadly infection in 2011. However, during the same period, sexual health clinics in the borough saw fewer people take up the offer of a test.
The national average for test uptake was 80.3 per cent of those offered, whereas in Wigan the average was only 76.5 per cent.
Eleanor Mansell, lead commissioner for sexual health at Wigan Council, said: “It is disappointing to see an increase in the number of HIV cases in the borough, however, we’re working closely with local clinics, communities and partner organisations to find ways to tackle this problem.
“Through the Greater Manchester Sexual Health Network, we’re offering more opportunities to test for HIV in clinics and in the community to help reduce the number of people who are diagnosed during the later stages of HIV.
“Early diagnosis helps people to manage their HIV and reduces the risk of passing it on to other people.”
Over the next 10 years, the number of HIV positive people aged over 50 in the borough is expected to triple as improved treatments mean sufferers live longer.
Cases of the virus have rocketed throughout the borough from 86 reported sufferers in 2006 to 189 in 2011.
The Lesbian and Gay Foundation (LGF) says greater testing could potentially lead to more men being diagnosed with HIV as the number of individuals taking tests increases.
They say without testing, these individuals would remain at risk of suffering from ill health and being potential sources of new infections in the future.
The LGF also say undiagnosed HIV infection remains unacceptably high among men, as one in five men with HIV do not know they have it and up to eight in ten new infections in this population are estimated to come from them.
Director of Business Development for The Lesbian and Gay Foundation, Rob Cookson, said: “The Lesbian and Gay Foundation is delighted to play its full part in promoting National HIV Testing Week, which provides a great opportunity for gay and bisexual men to find out more about the benefits of testing.
“If you’ve never tested before or haven’t tested for a while, it’s important to remember that it’s really easy to test and the benefits of knowing your HIV status are huge.”