Football stars back HIV testing campaign

By on 25/11/2013 in Cllr Bedser, News

HIV testing saves lives posterBirmingham health chiefs are backing a campaign spearheaded by football stars from across the West Midlands to promote the importance of HIV testing.

The players – including four club captains Ron Vlaar, Paul Robinson, Sam Ricketts and Chris Brunt – are appearing in educational booklets, videos and posters which promote the health benefits of testing for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus [HIV].

The four captains, who have joined forces with Birmingham awareness campaign Saving Lives,will also appear on promotional buses across Birmingham during November and December.

One in five of those living with HIV in the UK do not know they are infected. People with undiagnosed HIV cannot receive treatment using today’s highly effective treatments, and may well unknowingly pass on the infection to partners.

“Saving Lives is a campaign that is helping promote awareness,” says Ron Vlaar, the captain of Aston Villa. “We don’t want people to hear these silly things about sharing a kiss or having trouble with insurance.”

Blues captain Paul Robinson continues: “You can live a long happy life with HIV if you get tested.”

The players’ clubs are helping promote the educational effort, and Saving Lives is publishing a special booklet featuring its footballing ambassadors to coincide with National HIV Testing Week, November 22nd-29th.

“People can get tested very easily,” says Chris Brunt, West Bromwich Albion's skipper. “They can go to their local hospital, their GP or a sexual health clinic.”

Saving Lives works with local service providers to publicise testing centres in towns and cities nationwide. In Birmingham this November, posters will be appearing in GP practices across the city, as well as on the buses and via the Saving Lives website.

The charity’s campaign aims to reach new audiences and talk about HIV in a way which resonates today. “The last mainstream HIV awareness campaign was many years ago,” said the charity’s Medical Director, Dr Steve Taylor.

“Late diagnosis is associated with increased mortality, and so we need to persuade people to take the test by reducing the stigma that still surrounds what is now a chronic, treatable condition.”

Wolves captain Sam Ricketts is clear on the message: “Always stay safe, and go and get tested.”

Birmingham City Council Cabinet member for Health and Wellbeing, Cllr Steve Bedser, said: “HIV treatment has moved on dramatically in recent years and it's now a manageable condition but late diagnosis can lead to unnecessary complications.

“That's why testing is so important. The sooner you are diagnosed, the sooner your treatment can begin and that increases your chances of leading a long and healthy life.”


For Media inquiries, and to request high resolution imagery or further information, please contact Dan Hartland at (07946 175 813).

**High resolution images of the patrons and campaign materials are available.** Low resolution images can be viewed at

To read more about the Saving Lives charity, please visit their website at

There are four reasons why people are dying of advanced HIV in the UK:

  1. They do not consider themselves at risk.
  2. HIV testing is not routinely offered in GP practices or hospitals.
  3. One in five people (>20,000) infected with HIV in the UK remain undiagnosed.
  4. If undiagnosed they cannot receive life saving treatment and can unknowingly infect others.

The Saving Lives charity promotes a national HIV awareness campaign to increase the uptake of routine HIV testing.

Key Facts

  1. It is estimated that 100,000 people in the UK are living with HIV.
  2. One in five of those with HIV in the UK do not know they are infected.
  3. According to the Health Protection Agency, 5,600 new HIV infections were detected in 2011.
  4. The only way to diagnose HIV is for an individual to take an HIV test.
  5. Modern HIV medicines taken correctly can provide a nearly normal life expectancy.
  6. Today's HIV treatments are most effective when HIV is diagnosed early.
  7. Taking an HIV test does not affect your chances of getting a mortgage or life insurance.
  8. The people who die of HIV in the UK today are often those who have been diagnosed too late for drug therapy to be effective.
  9. Saving Lives is the first UK HIV charity of its kind to be supported by major Premier League football clubs.
  10. Together, we can beat HIV - by learning to test more and judge less.

KEY STATS 2010 Data released by Public Health England on November 21st 2013

  • An estimated 98,400 (93,500-104,300) people were living with HIV in the UK in 2012. The overall prevalence was 1.5 per 1,000 population (1.0 in women and 2.1 in men). An estimated 21,900 people living with HIV were unaware of their infection in 2012.
  • There were 490 deaths among people with an HIV infection in 2012, a continuation of the decline since the introduction of antiretroviral therapy (ART). Those diagnosed with HIV late (CD4 count <350 cells/mm3) continued to have a ten-fold increased risk of death in the first year of diagnosis compared to those diagnosed early.
  • People living with HIV can expect a near normal life span and better clinical outcomes if they are diagnosed promptly.
  • Earlier treatment must be combined with a substantial increase in the frequency of HIV testing among groups most affected. Between 2011 and 2012 there was a small decline in the proportion of people unaware of their HIV infection (25 per cent to 22 per cent), and this needs to be accelerated.
  • Recent national and international treatment guidelines recommend early treatment to prevent onward transmission. 'Treatment as prevention' is unlikely to be sufficient to reduce HIV transmission in the UK since it is estimated that two-thirds of HIV positive people with detectable viral loads are unaware of their infection.
  • The proportion of people diagnosed late has declined over the past decade from 58% (3,150) in 2003 to 47% (2,990) in 2012. Among MSM, the proportion of late diagnoses reduced from 42% to 34%, but the number of late diagnoses rose from 900 to 1,100. Among heterosexuals, the proportion diagnosed late reduced from 65% to 58% with the absolute number halving from 3,180 to 1,620.
  • Almost half of MSM newly diagnosed with HIV between 2010 and 2012 had their diagnosis made at their first HIV test at that sexual health clinic, an indicator that many MSM who require an HIV test have yet to seek one.
  • The number of HIV tests performed in sexual health services in England increased to 900,000 in 2012. However, significant improvements in test coverage are necessary since 29% (361,370/1,263,980) of clinic attendees did not have a test.
  • Overall, 64 of 326 (20%) local authorities across England had a diagnosed HIV prevalence of ? 2 per 1,000 population aged 15-59 years, the threshold for expansion of testing policies beyond the routine. Eighteen of the 20 local authorities with the highest prevalence were in London. Further efforts are needed to commission expanded HIV testing in these areas.

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