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World AIDS Day - Dec 1st

30th November 2010

CORNWALL CAMPAIGN TO RAISE AWARENESS OF HIV RISK Every year, more than 300 people are newly-diagnosed with the HIV virus in the South West - and many more remain unaware they have got it. If left untreated, the sexually transmitted virus leads to AIDS and is the fastest-growing serious health condition in the UK. Nationally, around 83,000 people are living with HIV – and official figures suggest that over a quarter of those are unaware they have it.  As World Aids Day approaches on 1 December, NHS Cornwall and Isles of Scilly is seeking to raise awareness of the virus and encourage more people to get tested routinely. World AIDS Day reminds us that HIV and other sexually transmitted infections haven’t gone away and can affect anyone engaging in unprotected sex – male, female, gay or straight, young or old. Latest figures from the Health Protection Agency show that in the South West nearly one third of all newly diagnosed cases of HIV were diagnosed late in the course of the disease. This means there is a greater risk of spreading the infection and the illness is harder to manage. Last year, in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, all of the positive diagnoses happened late in the course of the disease and were as a result of individuals visiting Genitourinary Medicine ( of the cases that are being detected in Cornwall are coming through from the GUM) Clinics.   “Some of these people had been infected years earlier and had no idea,” said Al Green from the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Health Promotion Service. “Late detection, as we are seeing, means not only that other people are at risk of contracting the infection, it also means that when people are diagnosed they are incredibly ill.” In 2009, there were 2,804 people were living in the South West with the disease and accessing NHS care, according to the Health Protection Agency. That year, there were 315 people newly diagnosed with HIV - 31 per cent of whom were diagnosed late, after the stage at which treatment should have started. Al added: “Early detection is crucial to stop the spread of HIV  and Aids to other people. It also improves the prognosis for people who are infected because early treatment will help to prevent HIV progressing to AIDS. “Using condoms correctly is still the safest way to ensure you don’t catch or pass on HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.  “World AIDS day is a good time to remind people that, if they think they’ve put themselves at risk of infection, to go to a sexual health clinic, or their GP and get a full sexual health check up.” Figures show that around 27 percent of people nationally that have HIV are unaware of their infection, and could be unwittingly passing it on to others. NHS Cornwall and Isles of Scilly isthey will be able to live successfully with the infection for a long time. We are seeing survival rates of well over 20 years now compared with about 8 when we started out trying to combat this infection. working with GPs locally to raise awareness of the symptoms of HIV and AIDS once more to assist earlier diagnosis. The NHS encourages everyone who is sexually active to undergo routine testing for all sexually transmitted infections. For advice, clinic information and appointments call the Cornwall sexual health service on 01872 358750.