HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus and is the virus known to cause AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome).
HIV kills or damages cells of the body's immune system, progressively destroying its ability to fight infections and certain cancers.
A person infected with HIV is only said to have AIDS either when the immune system damage has reached a certain severity or they have developed one or more of a list of 26 otherwise rare illnesses as a result of the immune system breakdown. It can take from a few months to over 10 years for an infected person to develop symptoms.
HIV is passed on from an infected person through the transfer of body fluids such as blood, semen, vaginal fluid and breast milk.
There are certain groups whose activities may put them at higher risk of infection than others. These include; men who have sex with men (MSM), injecting drug users (IDU), people who have lived as adults in countries where heterosexual transmission of HIV is common (notably South, East and Central Africa) and babies born to infected mothers.
There is no vaccine or cure yet available for HIV infection but there is treatment which dramatically slows the progress of the disease.
General information about HIV/AIDS is available on the Public Health Wales main website at: http://www.wales.nhs.uk/sitesplus/888/page/43730
Surveillance of HIV/AIDS in the UK is undertaken by Public Health England (PHE) with the collaboration of Public Health Wales for the collection of data for Wales. The latest surveillance report of HIV in the UK was published by PHE in November 20123 and is available from the link: HIV in the United Kingdom: 2013 Report
The latest trends in the rate of gonorrhoea in Wales (and of other STIs) are available in the report: HIV and STI Trends in Wales report: April 2012 [.pdf, 1.1MB]
As many of those who are infected do not know that they have acquired HIV, complex methods of surveillance are needed to estimate the number of people with HIV infection.
Within the UK, information on HIV infections is collected from several sources. The major sources of information for Wales are:
The data given below is reproduced from the latest National HIV Surveillance Data Tables. These tables are available to download from the PHE website from the link: http://www.hpa.org.uk/Topics/InfectiousDiseases/InfectionsAZ/HIV/HIVData/
Numbers, particularly for recent years, may rise due to the delay in receiving some reports. Data presented here is to the end of June 2013.
1. New diagnoses of HIV in Wales: 1981-2013
2. HIV diagnoses, AIDS cases and deaths in Wales by year: 1981-2013
Worldwide: HIV continues to be a major global public health issue, having claimed more than 36 million lives so far. There were approximately 35.3 [32.2–38.8] million people living with HIV in 2012. Sub-Saharan Africa is the most affected region, with nearly 1 in every 20 adults living with HIV. Sixty nine per cent of all people living with HIV are living in this region.
More information is available from the WHO website at: http://www.who.int/hiv/en/
An estimated 98,400 (93,500-104,300) people were living with HIV in the UK in 2012. Approximately one fifth of these (21,900) are undiagnosed and thus are unaware they are infected with HIV. The overall HIV prevalence in 2012 was 1.5 per 1,000 population. Men who have sex with men (MSM) remain the group most affected by HIV, with 47 per 1,000 living with the infection. Black African men and women were the second largest group affected by HIV with 38 per 1,000 living with the infection [Source: HIV in the United Kingdom: 2013 Report]
Wales: In Wales up to the end of June 2013, there have been 2245 individuals diagnosed with HIV infection. However, this number may change due to the delay in receiving some reports [Source PHE: National HIV Surveillance Data Tables http://www.hpa.org.uk/Topics/InfectiousDiseases/InfectionsAZ/HIV/HIVData/].
PHE report 125 new diagnoses of HIV infection in Wales in 2012. The highest number of new diagnoses in Wales since the start of the epidemic was recorded in 2007 at 174. Ten new AIDS diagnoses and nine deaths in HIV-diagnosed individuals were reported from Wales in 2012.
In Wales during 2012, the percentage of new diagnoses probably acquired by heterosexual contact was 38% (48 of 125 new diagnoses) and the number aquired through sex between men was 43% (54 of 125).
The number of new diagnoses in women in recent years has risen, from 6 in 1999 to 71 in 2006 (17% to 45% of total new positives); a decrease in new diagnoses in women was observed from 2007-2010 (between 25-28% of total new positives) but 2011 and 2012 saw an increase to 30% and 31% respectively of all new positives. Since 1999, all pregnant women have been offered an HIV test as a routine part of antenatal care.
The number of newly diagnosed HIV positives in Wales reporting injecting drug use as their most likely source of infection has remained low at less than 5 diagnoses per year since 2001.
In total, 98 individuals reported probably contracting HIV through either receiving contaminated blood/tissue products or from mother to infant. Heat viral inactivation treatment of blood concentrates and blood donor screening was introduced in the UK in 1985.
New infections acquired since 2002 via blood/tissue products were aquired outside of the UK.
Data from the SOPHID survey which collects annual data on diagnosed HIV-infected individuals resident in Wales and seen for care indicates that the number of people living in Wales and accessing HIV-related care was 1535 in 2012, giving a prevalence rate for HIV/AIDS in Wales of 50 per 100,000 population. This compares to 330 people in 2000.
An increase in prevalence in the last decade reflects improved survival due to better treatments and the immigration of people into Wales who have acquired their infection overseas.
However, there continues to be transmission of HIV in Wales, particularly in men who have sex with men (MSM). In 2012, over half of prevalent cases (826) probably acquiring infection through sex between men, a 5.5% increase in the number seen for care in 2011.
Six hundred and three (39%) of those seen for care in Wales in 2012 probably acquired their infection through sex between men and women.
Twenty-six people seen for care probably acquired infection through injecting drug use, a decrease of one compared with the number seen in 2011.
The latest SOPHID data for Wales (to the end of 2012) is available from the PHE website at: http://www.hpa.org.uk/Topics/InfectiousDiseases/InfectionsAZ/HIV/HIVData/
If further surveillance data for HIV/AIDS in Wales is required, it may be possible to provide it on special request. Please use the surveillance data request form provided from this link.
Last updated: 26/11/2013