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One of five people with HIV unaware they have the virus

Jacquie Richardson from Positive Life said early HIV testing is key to increasing successful prognosis

ONE in five people with HIV in Northern Ireland are unaware that they have the infection.

New figures reveal more than 800 people are living with a HIV diagnosis in the north, with a further estimated 200 people unaware they have the virus.

Research has also shown that since 2004, the HIV rate has increased by 46 per cent in 2014.

There were 94 new diagnoses in 2014 alone. Late testing is also a trend in the north with more than half of all diagnoses in the late stages of HIV.

The statistics, released to coincide with Sexual Awareness Week in Northern Ireland, show that Belfast City Council and Castlereagh and Lisburn have the highest rates.

Research also shows there has been an increase in the total number of tests being carried out, with 88 per cent of 35,814 tests in 2014.

However, 51 per cent of these diagnoses were in the late stages of HIV.

Late testing for the virus or undetected HIV diagnosis can develop into AIDS after around eight years with life expectancy afterwards just one to two years.

Jacquie Richardson from Positive Life - the north's only dedicated HIV charity - said early testing is key to increasing successful prognosis.

"Positive Life as Northern Ireland's only dedicated HIV charity aim to ultimately prevent the increase in HIV infection through training, education and raising awareness," she said.

"Equal to this is our pledge to provide support services, advice and signposting for people living with and affected by HIV.

"Sexual Health Awareness Week is an important opportunity for Positive Life to communicate to Northern Ireland the necessity of taking ownership of our sexual health by practicing safer sex and participating in early HIV testing.

"The reality of the increasing prevalence of HIV in Northern Ireland is alarming."

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