St Albans charity urges more people to test for HIV

The Crescent, Russell Avenue, St Albans. Head of operations Ian Murtagh with administrator Fran Mur

The Crescent, Russell Avenue, St Albans. Head of operations Ian Murtagh with administrator Fran Murtagh, - Credit: Archant

A city centre HIV charity is encouraging people to get tested as new figures reveal that the county is lagging behind on diagnosing the virus.

Staff behind The Crescent Centre in St Albans have spoken out after information released by the National AIDS Trust (NAT) showed that 52% of people in Herts are diagnosed late – meaning they will have had HIV for at least four years.

Head of the support group in Russell Avenue, Iain Murtagh, said: “The HIV late diagnosis rate in Hertfordshire is still far too high and this means that more people are potentially being infected with the virus, as most people contract HIV from someone who didn’t have it in the first place.

“In some western areas of the county the rate is 18 to 25 per cent above the national average, while in some eastern parts the rate is considerably lower than the average. We feel this highlights the disparity in service provision.

“It must be remembered that the majority of those affected by HIV and indeed the highest numbers of those in at risk communities, reside in areas on the western side of the county.”

He added that the charity introduced a home sampling postal HIV testing service last year, recommended by the NAT as a route to help “hard to reach” communities.

Deborah Gold, chief executive of the NAT, said: “A significant reduction in HIV transmission in England will not be achieved unless we substantially increase the overall amount being spent on HIV prevention by local authorities.

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“Herts county council is responsible for ensuring its residents have the information they need about HIV risk and testing.”

Cllr Teresa Heritage, Herts county council’s cabinet member for public health, said: “Although figures for late diagnosis of HIV in Hertfordshire are slightly higher than the national average it is important to recognise that they are falling year on year.

“HIV rates tend to be higher in urban areas such as Watford and Three Rivers, Stevenage and Welwyn & Hatfield. However we are careful not to draw too many comparisons between areas as the numbers of people with HIV in each local area are small and comparisons can be misleading.

“Focusing efforts on areas of high prevalence and on increasing uptake of testing is a strategy which is showing results for us as our rates of late diagnosis are declining.”

She added that the county council planned to introduce more HIV testing through its partnership with HertsAid and through GPs, pharmacies and healthcare.

For more information about testing call the Crescent Centre on 01727 842532 or email