SOUTHEND is one of the “HIV capitals of England”, new figures have revealed.

New Public Health figures state 45 people were diagnosed with the condition in Southend during 2018 – 30.3 cases in every 100,000 people aged 15 and over.

This was nearly four times the national average of 8.8, and represented an increase on the previous year while there has been a decline nationally.

But Southend Council has disputed the figures and has raised an urgent query with the government body.

According to the figures, in Southend, 70 per cent of diagnoses between 2016 and 2018 were made at the late stage, compared to 42.5 per cent across England.

In Essex, the number of people diagnosed has fallen, while in Thurrock, the other unitary authority in Essex, the number of diagnosis has fallen for a third year in a row.

A Southend Council spokesperson said: “We have raised an urgent query with Public Health England regarding these figures.

“We have initially been told that a reporting issue may have had an impact on the 2018 new and late diagnosis figure and therefore the figures released may not be an accurate representation.

“We care about the health and wellbeing of our residents and proactively work with NHS colleagues and other partners to encourage self-care, which includes being aware of changes to your body which could be symptomatic.

“The Southend Sexual Health Clinic offers advice, medical appointments, online testing and urgent walk-in appointments for anyone with concerns for their sexual health or contraception.”

The service was launched in April 2019 by Southend Council in partnership with Provide, Southend University Hospital and the Terence Higgins Trust.

Lewis Davey, service manager at Terrence Higgins Trust Essex, said: “New Public Health England statistics have shown a further decline in new HIV diagnoses across the UK with a fall of 6 per cent, which of course is something we welcome.

“However it’s important we are not complacent if we are to end new HIV transmissions.

“Normalising regular HIV testing is incredibly important, in particular among groups that are most affected by HIV, including gay and bisexual men and black African populations. Terrence Higgins Trust offers free rapid HIV testing in Southend, with results available in one minute.”