Carlisle HIV testing rate falls below pre-pandemic levels

HIV testing rates in Carlisle were well below pre-pandemic levels in 2021, according to new figures.

Every year thousands of people in the UK become infected with HIV, a disease that attacks the immune system.

Thanks to advances in medicine, those who receive timely treatment can expect the same quality of life as anyone else. The NHS therefore advises anyone who thinks they have HIV to get tested as soon as possible.

Figures from the UK Health Security Agency show that 992 patients in Carlisle were tested for HIV in 2021, equivalent to 32.1% of eligible people in the area.

That was far less than before the pandemic – in 2019, 73.1% were tested – and a drop from 2020, when 33.9% of eligible patients received a test.

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HIV testing coverage has remained at 45.8% nationwide for the past two years, a significant drop from 64.9% in 2019.

The Terrence Higgins Trust, a sexual health charity, said it welcomed new developments in HIV testing – such as the ability to order tests online and the inclusion of HIV testing in blood tests at A&E – but that the testing gap between the different groups needs to be “addressed urgently”.

Across the North West, 321 new cases of HIV were diagnosed last year, including three in Carlisle.

Regionally, this is a decrease from the 397 cases recorded in 2019, although this may be partly explained by lower testing rates.

Across England, there has also been a slight increase in the proportion of diagnoses being made in the later stages of the infection, when it may be more difficult to treat – rising to 45.8% in 2021 from 44.1 % the previous year.

Different UKHSA figures show that 413 sexually transmitted infections were diagnosed in Carlisle last year, which equates to 381 cases per 100,000 people in the area.

Among them, 10 new cases of syphilis and 35 of gonorrhea.

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