HIV warning over infection rate rise

An HIV test taking place
An HIV test taking place

HEALTH chiefs in Wigan are calling for urgent action to stem the borough’s alarming rise in HIV infection rate.

Cases of the virus have rocketed throughout the borough from 86 reported sufferers in 2006 to 189 in 2011

The shocking figure has prompted a call for closer co-operation between health workers to prevent a growing threat to public health.

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.”

The borough had 23 new cases of the potentially deadly infection in 2011, of which nearly a quarter were aged 50 or above. This trend was echoed across the North West with over-50s making up a fifth of cases throughout the region.

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.

Wigan’s early diagnosis rate is increasingly is better than the North West and Greater Manchester averages.

And the Council work closely with commissioning services for HIV aimed at reducing the spread of the disease, diagnosing those affected, improving the health and social care for people living with AIDS and reducing the stigma.

Eleanor added:“To encourage early testing, dry-blood spot HIV testing has been piloted, which can be a more acceptable way of initial testing than venopuncture, and is being offered in addition to Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea screening.”

Meanwhile, gay men living with HIV in Wigan fear a future blighted by prejudice and poor health care, experts say.

A new report says men in this group face a ‘triple whammy’ of stigmas – against their age, sexuality and HIV status – even from within the healthcare system. According to the report by Steve Myers, director of multi-professional practice studies at Salford University, gay men’s HIV fears include ‘dying alone’, ‘care homes not being gay friendly’, ‘being left in a care home to rot’, ‘lack of HIV specific services’, ‘becoming an outcast’, ‘mental health loss’.