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Resort tops HIV list

Judith Mills said those with HIV are maintaining their health for longer.

Judith Mills said those with HIV are maintaining their health for longer.

  • by Emma Harris
 

BLACKPOOL still has the highest number of people living with HIV in Lancashire.

In 2011, there were 319 people living in the resort having treatment and care for the disease – of which 24 were new cases.

Blackpool has had more cases than anywhere else in the county for a number of years.

The town also had the North West’s third highest rate – prevalence per 100,000 of the population aged between 15 and 59 with HIV – behind Manchester and Salford.

Fylde had just four new cases last year, 43 altogether accessing care for HIV and Wyre had only five new cases, with a total of 49.

The figures, from the Centre for Public Health at Liverpool John Moores University, show overall in the North West, there was an 8.5 per cent increase in new cases, from 2010.

In total, the region has 6,993 people living with the illness.

The HIV virus is most commonly caught by having unprotected sex or by sharing infected needles and other equipment to inject drugs.

Health bosses say the large numbers are partly due to better screening and the fact medication means people with HIV are living longer.

Judith Mills, senior public health specialist with NHS Blackpool, said: “Blackpool continues to have one of the highest rates of people living with HIV in England.

“This is because of the new treatments are now available, to help people living with HIV – which attacks the immune system and weakens the ability to fight infections and diseases – maintain their health for much longer.

“We have put significant effort into encouraging everyone to take up HIV screening in Blackpool.

“Its definitely best to know, as an early diagnosis improves treatment outcomes and reduces the potential spread of the virus.

“Our rate of late diagnosis is now much lower than the national average. HIV testing is widely available.

“I would encourage everyone to access www.sexualhealthhub.co.uk for a list of where they can access HIV screening across Blackpool or access the Specialist Sexual Health service at Whitegate Primary Care Centre.”

A spokesman for the HPA Lancashire and Cumbria said: “It’s worrying we are still seeing so many cases year and year and people should not be complacent about HIV.

“Treatments are improving all the time and people can learn to live with it.

“But once you have it, you have it for life and the only way to protect yourself is by practising safer sex.

“And if you think you might have a chance of having caught HIV, go and get tested.

“Don’t take the risk, don’t play Russian roulette with your health.”

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