NUMBER OF HIV CASES IN NORTHERN IRELAND RISES BY 10 PER CENT, SAY HEALTH CHIEFS

HEALTH watchdogs say the number of HIV cases in Northern Ireland has risen by ten per cent in the past two years.

The Public Health Agency’s annual HIV Northern Ireland report highlighted a steady rise in new HIV diagnoses, from 80 in 2010 to 82 in 2011, up three per cent.

There are now 522 people living with HIV infection, up 10% on 2010.

Of the 82 new HIV diagnoses 48 of these occurred in men who have sex with men, the report said.

Dr Jillian Johnston, Specialist Registrar, Public Health Agency, said that the report was being released in advance of World AIDS Day on Saturday to raise awareness about HIV.

“The safer sex message applies to everyone, regardless of whether you are straight or gay,” he said.

“We know people may be infected with HIV without knowing, so it is important to protect yourself and to stop the spread of infection to others.

“Use condoms, limit the number of your sexual partners, and get checked at your local Genito Urinary Medicine (GUM) clinic or your GP surgery, if you could be at risk.”

The World Health Organization reported that there were 34.2m people living with HIV in 2011, of whom 2.5m were newly diagnosed.

During 2011, 6,280 new HIV diagnoses were made in the UK, the PHA report said.

Last year 53,294 HIV tests were carried out in Northern Ireland, where the prevalence remains lower than in the other UK countries.

However, the increase in annual new diagnoses in Northern Ireland between 2000 and 2011 at 332% is the highest of the UK countries .

Last year 53,294 HIV tests were carried out in Northern Ireland, 25,828 of them were performed as part of the antenatal screening programme.

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