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01 December 2015

World Aids Day

World Aids Day

The number of people living with HIV in the UK has doubled in the last decade to more than 100,000.

Of those, more than a fifth are thought to be undiagnosed. 

About two thirds of those living with HIV are men and one third are women. The two groups most affected remain gay and bisexual men, and black African heterosexuals. 

Late diagnosis* is particularly common amongst heterosexuals.  In 2014, heterosexual infections made up 40 per cent of new diagnoses and 44 per cent of this group was aged 45 or older.

Faith leaders in the UK have been working hard to combat the stigma of HIV within the church, particularly those with high numbers from the African community. 

Rev Charles Kwaku-Odoi, lead pastor of Command Prayer Centre in Manchester, works alongside the Terrence Higgins Trust to work with local church leaders on HIV awareness and is a qualified Romance Academy leader, educating young people about sex and relationships.

This World AIDS Day Terrence Higgins Trust is asking people to 'wear it' – encouraging people to buy and wear a red ribbon in solidarity with those suffering with HIV.  

Rev Charles works with Christian leaders, and especially those serving African communities, to engage with the subject of HIV in a sensitive way. 

Rev Charles said: "Over the last four years I have been supporting engagement with faith leaders especially of African background and others leading African-majority churches.

"There are many things the Church can do to actualise the global goal of ending HIV. The first step is to address stigma in the faith community by supporting those committed to increasing awareness and testing in the community. We believe the Church has the ability to actually end HIV if they addressed some of the issues."

His work outside the faith community has also helped sexual health professionals to have a better understanding of the sensitivity of HIV in faith communities, working together to develop appropriate interventions and message that faith leaders can comfortably share in places of worship.

Find out more about the work of the Terrence Higgins Trust on their website and more information about HIV in the UK here.

*Late diagnosis is when someone is diagnosed with HIV when their CD4* count is below 350.       Very late diagnosis is when someone is diagnosed with HIV when their CD4 count is below 200.  Late-stage HIV is when a person has an AIDS-defining illness such as tuberculosis or an HIV-related cancer.

*CD4 count is a the number of CD4 T lymphocytes in a sample of your blood. In people with HIV, it is the most important laboratory indicator of how well your immune system is working and the strongest predictor of HIV progression.