Diagnosing HIV early could finally end the spread.

HIV is on the rise in England, Scotland and Wales, and around 100,000 people are living with it in the UK.

There has always been an unfair stigma surrounding HIV as it is sometimes associated with behaviours that people “disapprove” of, such as drug use and sex work. Those suffering are often wrongly ostracized for their diagnoses.

“Incredible medical progress has been made in the last 20 years and HIV treatment is now very effective. If you are diagnosed with HIV early and you are put on effective treatment, you can expect to live as long as anyone else,” says Executive Director of External Affairs for the Terrence Higgins Trust, Shaun Griffin.

HIV testing is crucial to stop the spread. E-Magine Art / Flickr
HIV testing is crucial to stop the spread. E-Magine Art / Flickr

The statistics from HIVaware.org indicate how qucikly a positive diagnosis of the disease is rising. The number of people in the UK living with HIV has doubled in the last 10 years and one in five people with HIV in the UK are undiagnosed.

The disease is usually caught through bodily fluids; for example blood and semen, but NOT through ordinary social or physical contact or kissing.

It goes on to attack the immune system, and weakens your ability to fight infections and disease. The final stage of this incurable disease is AIDS, this stage means your body can no longer fight life threatening illnesses.

However, the illness is no longer a “death sentence” as it was once was. In the early days of the epidemic little was known about the virus, however nowadays someone with HIV who gets tested, is diagnosed early and is treated effectively will not go on to develop AIDS.

“Successful HIV treatment lowers the amount of virus in the body to undetectable levels. Global research, known as the PARTNER study, has found that HIV cannot be passed on when the virus is undetectable. In other words, if someone is on effective HIV treatment, it is extremely unlikely that HIV will be passed on to anyone else,” said Shaun Griffin.

He went to explain that “if everyone with HIV were diagnosed early and given effective treatment, we could finally stop the spread of HIV”.

By Rhiannon Ellen Thomas