A quarter living with HIV in Barking and Dagenham are unaware they have it

Health professionals are urging anyone at risk of HIV to get tested – after forecasting that a quarter of people living with the disease in Barking and Dagenham do not know they have it.

The latest figures show there are 611 people being treated for HIV in the borough – and a further 150 are believed to be carrying the virus unaware.

As part of a national campaign set up for World AIDS Day on Saturday, the local NHS authority is providing increased testing opportunities to get the message out that early diagnosis is key to successful treatment.

Per 1,000 residents in Barking and Dagenham, there is a prevalence of 5.3 with the disease among those aged between 15 and 59. Half are diagnosed late.

Linda Bailey, Barking and Dagenham consultant and assistant director in public health, told the Post: “Barking and Dagenham has a unique health profile within London. We’ve got high levels of deprivation compared to Redbridge and Havering and, where you’ve got that, you see higher rates of diseases including HIV.

“The strong message is everyone is at risk.”

In Barking and Dagenham 86 per cent of cases are through heterosexual sex and 62 per cent of those with HIV are women.

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Rates are also higher among gay and bisexual men and African communities.

Ms Bailey added: “The proportion coming forward in the late stage of diagnosis is quite high. It means treatments are less effective. People say HIV isn’t the killer disease it was in the 1980s but if you’re diagnosed late the chances of dying are increased significantly.”

The consultant added that campaigns such as National HIV Testing Week have helped dispel myths about the nature of the disease if caught in good time.

She added: “It’s no longer seen as an automatic you’ve got HIV so you’ve got X amount of years to live. If we find it early and treat it early people can have a normal life.”

As part of the campaign, a street bus will be based in Barking on December 1, there will be leafleting and packs will go into schools spreading messages about safe sex and condom use.