Action calls over rate of HIV infection across Blackpool

Coun Eddie Collett (below) said late HIV diagnoses had fallen in Blackpool
Coun Eddie Collett (below) said late HIV diagnoses had fallen in Blackpool

Town hall chiefs are being urged to do more to tackle HIV amid claims the disease is costing the NHS more than £100m in Blackpool.

Almost one in three sufferers in the resort are diagnosed late, meaning more lives are being put at risk, according to the latest figures released following research by a public health body.

Coun Eddie Collett

Coun Eddie Collett

But the National AIDS Trust (NAT) praised the council for its efforts to cut the number of late diagnoses.

Yet it claims authorities where the disease is most rife spend just 0.1 per cent of their public health budget tackling the problem –a figure it wants “substantially” increasing.

Blackpool Council said sexual health is a “priority” and late HIV diagnoses have fallen.

Public Health England figures show there were 370 people with HIV on the Fylde coast in 2013 – 279 of them in Blackpool, which has the seventh highest prevalence of the disease outside London.

We would urge all councils in high prevalence areas, like Blackpool, to ensure HIV prevention is a priority, that it is tailored and reflects the demographic of the HIV epidemic locally

Treatment and care for each patient costs the NHS £361,000 over their lifetime, which adds up to £134m across the Fylde coast.

Kat Smithson, NAT policy and campaigns manager, said:“It’s good to see Blackpool Council offering testing outside the sexual health clinic as we know this is a great way to engage with harder to reach people.

“This has clearly been reflected in Blackpool’s lower than average late diagnosis rates.

“We would urge all councils in high prevalence areas, like Blackpool, to ensure HIV prevention is a priority, that it is tailored and reflects the demographic of the HIV epidemic locally.”

It comes as NAT published a report on the work being done by local authorities to prevent HIV, which it describes as “inadequate”.

Fallen

It claims authorities where HIV is most prevalent, including Blackpool, are spending just 70p per resident tackling the problem.

However, the number of people in the resort who had HIV for more than four years before being diagnosed has fallen to 32 per cent –well below the national average of 45 per cent.

Since 2013, councils have had control of the public health budget for their area.

Blackpool Council said it spends around £3.5m a year on sexual health services.

Nationally, NAT estimates the amount spent on HIV prevention has fallen from £55m to just £15m in the last 13 years – while the number of people with the disease has trebled.

Coun Eddie Collett, Blackpool Council’s cabinet member for public health, said: “Sexual Health, including HIV prevention, is a priority for Blackpool.

“Reducing late HIV diagnoses is very important and we invest in a range of services to achieve this by expanding HIV screening and testing and raising awareness.

“This includes targeted outreach to high risk groups and venues, such as saunas and the introduction of HIV screening in the Acute Medical Unit at Blackpool Victoria Hospital and a number of GP practices.

“As a result of HIV prevention activity in Blackpool we have seen a fall in late HIV diagnoses in recent years and we are considerably better than the national average.”