The prevalence of HIV has risen again in Brighton and Hove and remains the highest anywhere in the country outside London.
At 0.796 per cent – or almost eight in a thousand 15 to 59-year-olds – the prevalence is up from 0.775 per cent a year earlier.
The latest figures were published this week with National HIV Testing Week starting tomorrow (Saturday 22 November) and World AIDS Day taking place on Monday 1 December.
The number of 15 to 59-year-olds with HIV has gone up from 1,434 to 1,487, according to Public Health England.
Only Manchester and Birmingham have a higher incidence outside London. And the only London boroughs with a higher incidence are Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham.
Brighton and Hove City Council said this week: “The number of residents of Brighton and Hove who have accessed NHS-funded treatment for HIV in 2013 is 1,670 people, an increase of 5 per cent on the previous year.”
Most of those are gay men but a significant minority of people living with HIV are straight.
Public Health England said: “These figures underline the need to further increase both the numbers and frequency of HIV tests, which is critical to tackling the ongoing high levels of HIV transmission.”
The council said: “Organisations across the city are working together to raise awareness of the importance of HIV testing, especially for those groups with the highest reported incidences of HIV – these are gay men and African people.
“The aim of National HIV Testing Week is to reach the groups of people most at risk of HIV and share the message that everyone should know their HIV status.”
Tom Scanlon, Brighton and Hove’s director of public health, said: “HIV Testing Week highlights the importance of safer sex and taking practical action to avoid this preventable disease.
“With more than a fifth of people living with HIV being unaware they are HIV positive, it is vital everyone finds out about how to reduce the risks of contracting HIV and many other sexually transmitted diseases.”
Dr Scanlon said: “Information is readily available online and from local clinics which can help people make safer choices.
“Anyone sexually active should take this opportunity to have an HIV test with support from local organisations.
“While recognising the constructive way people living with HIV face the challenges of this life-changing disease, we would like to see a reduction in the numbers of new instances in the future for the benefit of all.”
An estimated 21 per cent of people living with HIV do not know that they are HIV positive because they have not been tested.
During National HIV Testing Week additional clinics will be run across the city providing free rapid HIV testing.
The tests are quick and easy, the council said. Testing involves a finger-prick blood test, with results available within 15 minutes.
People taking the test will be given information and support before and afterwards. Anyone testing positive will be referred quickly to a specialist clinic.
Early diagnosis of HIV is important, the council added. People are more likely to do better if they start HIV treatment before their immune system is too damaged. Being aware can also help reduce onwards transmission.
HIV testing is taking place in a number of places.
The Terrence Higgins Trust is offering free rapid HIV testing at its Ship Street base from Monday to Friday 10am to 8pm, Saturday and Sunday 10am to 5pm and on Wednesday at Brighton Sauna in Grand Parade 6pm to 8.30pm.
HIV and other sexual health tests are available at the Claude Nicol Clinic in Eastern Road.
All attendees at the genito-urinary medicine (GUM) clinic will be offered HIV testing.
GPs are offering HIV tests to all men and African women attending surgeries for a blood test of any kind during National HIV Testing Week.