HIV charity calls for better action from Bexley Council to fight virus
PUBLISHED: 18:42 09 April 2014 | UPDATED: 13:00 14 April 2014
An HIV charity is calling on Bexley Council to improve the support services for the growing number of people living with the virus.
Bexley is London’s worst performing borough when it comes to diagnosing HIV, with nearly 64 per cent people living with HIV being diagnosed late.
This figure has risen from 59 per cent in 2011 - much worse than the national average of 48 per cent.
Late diagnosis of HIV means that people have had the virus for at least four years.
If diagnosed late it can result in worse health outcomes, a decreased life expectancy and a greater chance of passing the virus on.
Yusef Azad, director of policy and campaigns at the National AIDS Trust, said: “Reducing the late diagnosis of HIV is a key public health responsibility for local councils and so these elections represent a real opportunity for councillors and political groups in Bexley to tackle HIV in the borough.
“London has from the start of the epidemic been the part of the UK most severely affected by HIV, yet Bexley is still struggling to diagnose people living with the virus on time.”
Mr Azad urged candidates standing in the local elections in Bexley on May 22, to invest in HIV prevention services, show leadership on diagnosis and fund and commission HIV support if elected.
According to figures from Public Health England, one in 470 people have contracted HIV in the borough. Of those who have been diagnosed 333 accessed services in 2012, when the figures were recorded.
Mr Azad added: “The elections will be the first to take place since local authorities regained their responsibility for public health – now councillors and political groups in Bexley can make a lasting difference to the lives of people with HIV, those at a higher risk of contracting the virus and the generations to come.”
Currently, all London boroughs - apart from Havering - are classed as ‘high prevalence’, meaning they have at least two people in every 1,000 living with HIV.
A Bexley spokesman insisted the council was “aware” of the data raised by the NAT.
The spokesman said: “Bexley is committed to diagnosing HIV infection early to improve the health outcomes of people infected with HIV.
“We are aware of data which shows that Bexley is currently one of the worst performing London Boroughs for “diagnosing HIV in time”.
“We do not take this lightly and are working hard to improve the situation.”
The spokesman added Bexley Council’s Public Health funding allocation was “the lowest in London last year” when the local authority assumed control of its own health budget.
He also added: “Improvements have been made since the council took control.”