As the world gathered to celebrate World AIDS Day 2005 this week, new figures in the United Kingdom suggested the country’s gay community saw more gay men testing positive for HIV last year than any year since records began.

So far, 2,185 positive tests have been reported among gay men during 2004 to the Health Protection Agency (HPA), and this number is likely to rise further as late reports come in.

The HPA revealed the new figures in a report called Mapping the Issues, released for World AIDS Day 2005.

An HPA spokesperson confirmed to Planet Out that the 2004 figure beats the previous record set in 1985, the year after the HIV test was introduced, when just over 2,000 gay men tested positive.

The HPA acknowledged that some of the increase in positive tests is due to more gay men coming forward. Four out of five gay men and three-quarters of heterosexuals who attend HIV clinics now accept an HIV test when it is offered, the HPA revealed.

Previously the agency estimated that a quarter of gay men were undiagnosed, but after surveys found higher proportions undiagnosed in London, Manchester and Brighton, that estimate now stands at 34-percent.

An estimated three-quarters of HIV infections acquired in the UK are among gay men, but despite the record figures, gay men only for an estimated third of the total of 7,275 diagnoses reported so far in 2004

Meanwhile, according to the World AIDS Day report by EuroHIV, who monitor figures for the whole of Europe, the United Kingdom has seen the largest increase in HIV cases in any country in Western Europe in the last four years.

The number of reported cases increased by 69-percent in the United Kingdom, but just by 20-percent overall in the remaining 10 countries in Western Europe that compile reliable HIV figures.

These figures, however, do exclude France, Spain and Italy, which have a higher proportion of people living with HIV than the UK. France only started compiling accurate HIV figures in 2003 and Spain and Italy still do not.

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