World AIDS Day: 20,000 Britons unknowingly infected

Today, the 1st December, is World AIDS Day, a day when millions of people around the world will be donning red ribbons and raising funds and awareness for HIV and AIDS. There are hundreds of events taking place around the UK today from lectures, talks and theatre shows to cake sales, wrist band sales and special pub theme nights.

NAT, the National AIDS Trust of the UK, has made special limited edition sparkly red ribbons to raise funds for the charity, these can be bought from high street shops and the NAT online store. The red ribbon was first chosen as the symbol of World AIDS Day in 1991 and is now a widely-recognised and distributed image.

This year, especially, it is vitally important to raise awareness of the spread of HIV when Professor Margaret Johnson, world-renowned HIV expert, writes that over 86,000 people in the UK are estimated to be infected with HIV with 26% of those people remaining unaware of their infection. Despite this shocking assertion that over 20,000 people in the UK do not know that they have HIV, the Health Protection Agency (HPA) has released figures showing that a fifth of people offered HIV testing at sexual health clinics refused to be tested. In 2010 the highest annual number of new infections in gay men reached over 3000 and yet over half of those were given a worse prognosis due to delays in being diagnosed. The HPA is calling for all new GP registrants and patients admitted to hospital to be tested to prevent unknowing infections. Dr Valerie Delpech, head of HIV surveillance at the HPA states that “people probably do not understand how easy it is to diagnose HIV and that with early treatment their chances of survival are near to normal.”

Acquired immune deficiency syndrome, a deficiency of the immune system due to infection with HIV. Full medical glossary
The abbreviation for human immunodeficiency virus, which is the cause of AIDS. Full medical glossary
Invasion by organisms that may be harmful, for example bacteria or parasites. Full medical glossary
An assessment of the likely progress of a condition. Full medical glossary