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New STI statistics for UK show rise in people living with HIV

January 08, 2009

The UK’s Health Protection Agency (HPA) has estimated that there are now around 73,000 adults living with HIV in the UK, up from approximately 63,500 last year.

According to the 2007 edition of the Health Protection Agency’s annual report on HIV and Sexually Transmitted Infetions (STIs), 7,093 people were newly diagnosed with HIV in the UK in 2006, though this figure is likely to rise to around 7,800 once all reports have been received.  This estimate is slightly lower than the 7,900 new diagnoses made in 2005, suggesting that the infection rate in the UK has stabilised, and may possibly be declining slightly.

Dr Valerie Delpech , Head of HIV surveillance at the Agency said that HIV remained a serious problem in the UK, with around 21,600 people with HIV remaining unaware that they are infected. Gay men are thought to be particularly at risk.

“We are still seeing high levels of HIV transmission in gay men in whom we anticipate that there will have been just over 2,700 new diagnoses of HIV infection in 2006,” she said.  

“In recent years we have seen steady increases in all sexually transmitted infections (STI), including HIV, in gay men and since 2003, the number of HIV diagnoses reported annually has consistently increased and exceeded the annual number of diagnoses throughout the 1980s and 1990s.”

The sexual health of young adults also worsened in 2006 according to the report, with increases in genital herpes, genital warts and chlamydia. Around one in ten young adults screened through the new National Chlamydia Screening Programme in 2006 tested positive for the infection, and it remains the most commonly diagnosed STI in UK genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics.

Professor Pete Borriello, Director of the HPA's Centre for Infections, said “We need to reinforce the safe sex message for gay men, young adults and the broader community. The best way to protect yourself from contracting an STI including HIV is by practising safer sex by using a condom with all new and casual partners. Any person who believes they may be at risk or has symptoms suggestive of a sexually transmitted infection should consult their doctor or attend a clinic. The sooner HIV and other STIs are diagnosed and treated, the less likely it is they will be passed on.”

Tags: STI, HPA, gay men, HIV diagnoses, National Chlamydia Screening Programme, GUM


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