Brighton has UK's '˜highest rate of HIV outside London'

Brighton health chiefs are preparing for a big push to tackle the high rate of HIV infections in the city.

Hiv Budding Color By Photo Credit: C. Goldsmith
Hiv Budding Color By Photo Credit: C. Goldsmith

A report going before Brighton and Hove City Council’s Health and Wellbeing Board today (November 13) said that Brighton and Hove had the seventh highest level of people with HIV out of all local authorities in England.

And the rate is the highest outside London, with 45 new HIV diagnoses in Brighton and Hove last year.

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Brighton and Hove became the first city in Britain to sign up to the Fast Track Cities programme last year.

New HIV diagnosis from April 2013-December 2017 Source: Cavilla, S; Dean, G & Churchill, D (2018)

It aims to make more than 90 per cent of people with HIV aware that they have the virus.

And a year on, it is on track to hit its targets in 2020, with more people in high-risk groups taking HIV tests.

In 2017 there were 45 new HIV diagnoses among residents of Brighton and Hove.

And the Martin Fisher Foundation, a Brighton charity that aims to eradicate new HIV infections and deaths and stigma, received funding for the project from Public Health England.

The Fast Track Cities scheme is also aimed at reducing stigma and ensure more than 90 per cent of people with HIV have a diagnosis and are receiving treatment by 2020.

In a joint statement the Labour leader of the council Daniel Yates and HIV consultant Dr Gillian Dean said: “There is so much more to do to meet the Martin Fisher Foundation’s ambitious targets of zero HIV stigma, zero new HIV infections and zero deaths from HIV in Brighton and Hove.

“Innovation will be a key means of achieving this and already we have seen the HIV self-testing vending machine win national awards and international plaudits, with plans to extend to London, Birmingham and Africa.”

At this stage the Brighton and Hove HIV Zero Taskforce describes the position as “strong”.

It said 88 per cent of people living with HIV know their status (based on national data) and 98 per cent of those are on treatment.

In 2017 there were 1,868 people with HIV resident living Brighton and Hove receiving NHS HIV treatment.

This is an increase of one per cent (19 people) on 2016 and an increase of 272 per cent on 1998 when there were 502 people receiving treatment.

When a person receives a late diagnosis they are at greater risk of dying through HIV-related illnesses.

In Brighton and Hove between 2015 and 2017, 34.1 per cent of HIV diagnoses were made at a late stage of infection compared with 41.1 per cent in England.

Heterosexuals are more likely to be diagnosed late than men who have sex with men.

In 2016 an HIV test was offered at 90.6 per cent of eligible residents of Brighton and Hove at specialist sexual health services with 70.3 per cent taking up the offer.

Zero stigma is a key target and a 12-person steering group formed of health workers, people with HIV and community representatives is tackling the problem.

The group has written a draft action plan which sets out proposals for the next one to two years to work on reducing stigma among health care workers, empowering people living with HIV and a public awareness campaign.

Sarah Booker-Lewis is the Local Democracy Reporter for Brighton & Hove.