New diagnoses of HIV in Wigan have fallen over the last year.
Campaigners have welcomed the continuing decline in HIV infection rates across the country, but said a slowing pace of progress showed more needed to be done to eradicate the disease.
New Public Health England figures reveal 12 people were diagnosed with the human immunodeficiency virus in Wigan during 2018 – 4.5 cases in every 100,000 people aged 15 and over.
This was a drop compared to the previous year, when there were 7.5 cases per 100,000 people. That’s lower than the England average, with 8.8 new infections per 100,000 people diagnosed last year.
There is still no cure for HIV, which damages the body’s immune system and weakens its ability to fight off other infections and illnesses.
It is passed from person to person through body fluids such as semen or blood, and is most commonly caught by having unprotected sex.
New diagnoses of the virus – which can cause sufferers to develop the life-threatening illness AIDS – fell by 28 per cent across the UK between 2015 and 2018, from 6,271 to 4,484.
Ian Green, chief executive of HIV charity the Terrence Higgins Trust, welcomed the news, but warned the Government needs to do more if it is to meet its target of ending HIV infection by 2030.
“We have the necessary tools to end transmissions but we need to maximise these across all groups affected by HIV right across the UK to ensure that no one is left behind,” he said.
“The medical progress in the fight against HIV has been incredible but stigma remains a huge barrier. In order to continue progress, HIV must be prioritised as a public health issue because more of the same won’t cut it.
“We also need to invest in sexual health services across the country to make sure they are properly funded to meet rising demand.”
Public Health England has put the fall in new cases down to better prevention, including testing and condom provision, as well as the use of drugs which prevent those infected from passing the virus on.
However, it said too many cases were still diagnosed at a late stage of infection, when the risk of death within a year is 10 times higher.
In Wigan, 59 per cent of diagnoses between 2016 and 2018 were made at the late stage, compared to 42.5 per cent across England. Last year, 3,175 people were tested for HIV after accessing sexual health services in the area: 29 per cent of attendees.