The Health Protection Agency has revealed that there were an estimated 6,840 new HIV diagnoses in the UK last year, more than a third of them gay men.

It is the third successive year that new diagnoses among gay men have risen above 2,600, the highest levels since records began.

Increased testing is likely to have contributed in part to these recent high numbers of HIV diagnoses. 2,630 gay men were diagnosed as HIV positive last year.

Genevieve Clark, Director of Communications at Terrence Higgins Trust said:

“There’s clearly some good news here.

“More gay men are coming forward for testing and new diagnoses among gay men seem to be levelling off.

“But the fact remains that gay men are still at highest risk of HIV infection in the UK.

“For those numbers to come down, we need to step up resources for targeted HIV prevention programmes.

“More broadly, the numbers of people with undiagnosed HIV are still far too high.

“HIV testing must be made easier, quicker and more accessible for anyone who has been at risk of infection.”

Dr Valerie Delpech, HPA Head of HIV surveillance, said:

“Gay men continue to be the group most at risk of acquiring HIV within the UK.

“We need to reinforce the safe sex message for gay men that the best way to protect yourself from contracting HIV is practising safer sex by using a condom with all new and casual partners.

“We must also shift the testing culture among gay men, encouraging more frequent testing particularly among individuals at greatest risk, such as those with a high number of sexual partners and men who attend GUM services.”

The overall estimate for new diagnoses of HIV in 2007 is slightly less than that for 2006 (7,430), due mostly to the decline in cases diagnosed among those infected heterosexually in Africa (from 3,250 to 2,690).

Deborah Jack, Chief Executive of the National AIDS Trust, said:

“It is a concern that HIV diagnoses are still increasing among gay men and heterosexuals infected in the UK, and we welcome the Department of Health review of national HIV prevention programmes.

“Alongside improved prevention we urgently need better HIV testing strategies.

“HIV is often not picked up early enough by health professionals and late diagnoses increase the likelihood of HIV being passed on, as well as greatly reducing the health prospects of people living with HIV.”