Published Wed, 2011-10-12 16:43; updated 4 years ago.

Two Birmingham HIV charities have called on people at risk of infection to get tested – as a new survey suggests life expectancy for those with the virus has shot up by 15 years in a decade. 

ABplus and Freshwinds said going for a test following possible exposure to the virus was very important.

And Steve Moralee, director of development at Selly Oak-based Freshwinds, which supports people living with HIV, said more investment was needed into prevention.

"It's great that the medications we have now and the advances we've made are excellent, but that has to be factored into the cost of treating someone with HIV, which is about £300,000," he said. "You can reduce that by not getting infected in the first place or being tested quickly and getting an early diagnosis: the later the diagnosis, the more likely it is that someone will need in-patient care and have other complications."

Tina Prashar, manager of ABplus, based in Lower Essex Street, welcomed the results of the survey, published in the BMJ (British Medical Journal), which suggests modern drugs and earlier treatment have led to the dramatic increase in life expectancy for people living with HIV.

A team led by Dr Margaret May, of the University of Bristol, looked at the life expectancy of the average 20-year-old starting treatment with anti-retroviral drugs between 1996-1999 and 2006-2008.

During that time, average life expectancy increased from 30 to almost 46 years, according to the data reported in the BMJ.

"This is very good news and we would encourage everyone at risk of HIV to for testing as soon as possible," said Tina. "Our advice is for people to practise safe sex as much as possible, but if anyone has any concerns about condom use, they should call us to organise having a test.

"Our venue hosts testing clinics, run by THT (Terence Higgins Trust) in partnership with Heartlands Hospital, on Mondays from 4pm, and there are a number of venues where people can go for testing – in the community as well as in hospital settings. We also offer people support if they are concerned about having a test – we can help them through the process."

Figures suggest 80,000 people in the UK carry HIV – but about 25 per cent are unaware they have the infection.

The UK researchers said health authorities should consider more widespread testing for HIV, but Steve Moralee said it was the responsibility of health authorities and charities to work together on both early diagnosis and prevention.

  • Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer with ABplus should contact the charity. Freshwinds is also looking for volunteers to help with its HIV programmes and other work. Contact the charity for more details.