Page last updated at 23:32 GMT, Sunday, 3 August 2008 00:32 UK

UK Africans 'need more HIV help'

Aids ribbon
Aids prevention messages are not reaching some groups

More effort is needed to spread HIV prevention information among African men and women now living in the UK, claim researchers.

A survey conducted by the University of Portsmouth revealed commonly-held false beliefs about HIV infection.

These included the fear that HIV diagnosis could lead to deportation from the UK.

The African HIV Policy Network said it could stop people seeking help, perhaps risking the virus being spread further.

Having detailed information about which Africans need the most support will help the organisations which fund and deliver services to better target their scarce resources
Catherine Dodds, University of Portsmouth

Approximately half a million Africans live in the UK, according to the 2001 Census, and the Health Protection Agency estimates that 25,000 - one in 20 of them - are infected with HIV, including many who do not realise they have the virus.

Specialists have suggested that some of the cultural beliefs common in sub-Saharan Africa, which have contributed to HIV spread there, are also strong in expatriate Africans.

The survey of 4,000 African men and women supports this to some extent.

More than a third of people who said they had no reason to suspect they had HIV said they had no control over whether or not they became infected, and among those with diagnosed HIV, a quarter said they lacked the ability to make sure they did not pass it to their partners.

Many of those questioned said they did not want to use condoms, and many of those who reported using condoms, said that they had torn or slipped during sex.

Whilst the vast majority of those questioned knew that HIV could be transmitted through sex and intravenous drug use, one in five did not know about anti-retroviral drugs, and one in three were not aware that the earlier they were taken, the more effective they were likely to be.

Many thought they would be forced to leave the UK if they were diagnosed with HIV - which might stop them having a test or seeking help.

Stigma test

Catherine Dodds, who led the Portsmouth project, said: "These findings clearly identify the kinds of HIV prevention that are most needed by African people living in England.

"Having detailed information about which Africans need the most support will help the organisations which fund and deliver services to better target their scarce resources."

One of these organisations, the National African HIV Prevention Programme, which works with a grant from the Department of Health, said that the stigma around HIV testing among Africans in the UK needed to be addressed.

Angelina Namiba, from the programme, said: "The report re-affirms the importance of making HIV testing services, treatment and information easily available and accessible."

John Howson, from the International HIV/Aids Alliance, said the report showed how the needs of Africans living in the UK were not being met.

He said: "Less than one-third of people living in low and middle-income countries who need life-saving HIV treatment have access to it and it makes sense that people will be influenced by their experiences in their countries of origin.

"The International HIV/AIDS Alliance's partners in Africa have been addressing these challenges for years and have developed innovative programmes to respond to the urgent need for prevention and treatment.

"This experience needs to influence the response in the UK."

Progress made in HIV prevention
29 Jul 08 |  Health

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