THE number of people in Hastings with HIV has shot up by more than 200 per cent over the last decade, according to latest figures released.
The National AIDS Trust (NAT) said the town was now classed as an HIV high prevalence area, one of only 63 in the UK.
New statistics from Public Health England show that one in every 495 people in Hastings is now living with Human immunodeficiency virus compared to the national average of one in every 650.
This equates to a shocking 236 per cent rise in 1066 Country over the last 10 years.
NAT said this week that around 50 per cent of people diagnosed with HIV in Hastings in 2012 were diagnosed late, meaning they have usually lived with the condition for four or more years.
Since April East Sussex County Council has been responsible for sexual health, including HIV prevention and testing in the area. NAT is calling on the authority to urgently address the issue of HIV prevention such as expanding the range of testing that is offered to residents and investigate new testing campaigns such as introducing HIV testing in hospitals, GP practices or bars and clubs.
Yusef Azad, director of policy and campaigns at NAT, said: “Getting tested could mean the difference between being healthy and having a normal lifespan and getting seriously ill. Late diagnosis unnecessarily reduces your chances of living a long and healthy life, so ensuring you know your HIV status is vital.”
Cynthia Lyons, the county council’s acting director of public health, said: “These figures are obviously very worrying and highlight the importance of regular testing.
“While there is no cure for HIV, a virus that attacks the immune system, there are effective treatments available. Early diagnosis and treatment can radically improve the outcome and mean a near normal lifespan.
“The earlier HIV is detected, the quicker you can access the help and support you need. If you think you are at risk, regular testing is vital in achieving this. It’s also important to protect yourself and others by preventing the virus from being passed on. Condoms are still the best barrier against HIV and they help protect against other infections as well.
“East Sussex County Council is backing a campaign run by Terrence Higgins Trust to prevent a rise in HIV infections and boost testing levels. It Starts With Me is a national two-year campaign to raise awareness of HIV infection and encourage regular testing.
“You can get tested at your local sexual health services www.eastsussexsexualhealth.co.uk or from your GP.”