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HIV tests, stealth spheres, and rising self harm rates – this week’s Friday 5

A fifth of people in England will suffer from poor health before the age of 30

An analysis of England’s medical records has found that a fifth of people will experience poor health before their 30th birthday, over a decade sooner than Public Health England estimated. The six conditions most likely to mark a decline in health are depression, high blood pressure, asthma, cancer, coronary heart disease and diabetes.

By the age of 50, most will have at least one long-term health condition, such as asthma, mental illness, or diabetes. Delaying the onset of significant health conditions could save the NHS over £3 billion a year, stated researchers at Outcomes Based Healthcare (OBH).

Read more in the Times (£).


HIV tests for sale on high street for first time

High street retailer Superdrug has announced it is now selling the HIV self-testing kit BioSURE, which provides a result in 15 minutes. It will be priced at £33.95 and sold in 200 stores across the UK. BioSURE was the first legally approved self-testing kit and has been available to buy online since 2015.

Superdrug has stated that this will help to reduce waiting times and increase early diagnoses. Improved treatments for HIV have made the disease more manageable, but a late diagnosis can have a severely detrimental effect on health. Marc Thompson, health improvement lead at the Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “Around one in eight people living with HIV in the UK remain undiagnosed, which is why we strongly welcome anything that increases access to and awareness of HIV testing. But not everyone can afford to buy a kit, and it’s important to make clear that you can test for free at any sexual health clinic.”

Read more on the BBC.


Viruses travel in ‘stealth spheres’, say scientists

A team of scientists at the US National Institutes of Health have discovered that groups of up to 40 viruses can group together and surround themselves with a fatty sphere, or vesicle, which protects them against the body’s defences. This discovery goes against conventional understandings that viruses travel alone, infecting and using cells to create more of themselves. Dr Nihal Altan-Bonnet, head of host-pathogen dynamics at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, told the BBC “it blew my mind… I couldn’t believe it when I saw it.”

Researchers hope that this discovery can lead to the development of treatments for several viral infections, including norovirus, poliovirus and rotavirus. The latter is the biggest cause of diarrhoea in children worldwide.

Read more on the BBC.


Hospital admissions for self-harming young girls have doubled in 20 years

Girls under the age of 18 were admitted to hospital for self-harming nearly twice as regularly last year compared to two decades ago, at 13,463 in 2017 compared to 7,327 in 1997. Comparitvely, the number of admissions for boys rose from 2,236 to 2,332.

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) described the statistics as “heartbreaking”, but “unsurprising”, blaming the demands of modern day life – such as social media and increased pressure on school performance. The Department of Health and Social Care noted that figures for admissions did not represent the number of patients treated because some were admitted more than once within the period, but an extra £300m will be invested to provide extra help in schools, including training staff to support children faster.

Read more in the Independent.


Fewer women are using the pill

Women are increasingly ditching oral contraceptives in favour of long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs), such as the implant or coil, with younger women, in particular, driving this trend. In the last decade, the number of women using LARCs has nearly doubled, whilst the use of the pill has declined. Oral contraception, however, still remains the most common method, making up 44% of contraceptives accessed through sexual health services.

Since 2010, the NHS has made significant efforts to increase awareness of long-acting contraceptives. Hormone-free contraception has also become increasingly popular as concerns grow over links between oral contraceptives and depression. Dr Anatole Menon-Johansson, of Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospital and sexual health charity Brook, stated: “The most effective form of marketing of contraception is peer to peer, by word of mouth. There’s a ‘cascade’ effect, where people hear about it from their friends who’ve had a good experience, then more people ask for it.”

Read more on the BBC.


Quote of the week

Our quote of the week is from Rebecca Hilsenrath, chief executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, who is calling on the NHS to offer fertility treatment to transgender people.

“A choice between treatment for gender dysphoria and the chance to start a family is not a real choice.”

Read more in the Guardian. 

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