Lewes has the 18th highest prevalence of people living with HIV outside London, according to official figures.
Currently one in 332 people in the town is living with HIV. This has risen significantly since 2002 when the figure stood at one in every 1,000. UK-wide the figure is one in 650.
In the last month, East Sussex County Council has taken over the responsiblity for HIV prevention and testing for the first time.
The National AIDS Trust (NAT) is calling on it to prioritise sexual health. Deborah Jack, Chief Executive of NAT, said: “The county council is now responsible for sexual health diagnosis and prevention for the first time. It has been allocated £48,874,000 by the Government to spend on public health over the next year but worryingly within that budget there will be no ring-fencing for HIV.”
She continued: “Lewes’ local councillors need to push for a strong commitment to HIV from the county council to ensure HIV prevention and testing continue to receive the necessary funding. Disinvestment in HIV prevention and testing would seriously harm public health, especially in an area like Lewes which has a high rate of HIV.”
Forty-two percent of people living with HIV in Lewes are diagnosed late – this usually indicates that they are likely to have been infected for at least five years. Late diagnosis can mean worse health outcomes, a decreased life expectancy and a greater chance of passing the virus on.
People diagnosed late have an eleven-fold increased risk of death within one year of HIV diagnosis compared to those diagnosed promptly.
Bake Aware – see Page 9