Page last updated at 13:30 GMT, Tuesday, 1 December 2009

50% rise in new HIV cases in year

HIV tests
2008 saw a significant rise in new HIV cases in Northern Ireland

The number of new cases of HIV in Northern Ireland rose by more than 50% in 2008, compared to the previous year.

Latest figures from the Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre show there were 92 HIV diagnoses during 2008, compared to 61 in 2007.

In 2008, 14 people were diagnosed with Aids, the first new cases since 2005. Five people died from the disease.

There were also 63 diagnoses of syphilis reported in 2008, compared to 27 the previous year.

The figures show chlamydia continues to be one of the most common bacterial sexually transmitted infections (STIs) diagnosed in clinics in Northern Ireland, accounting for 27% of all new STI diagnoses in 2008.

While the number of new HIV cases rose sharply in 2008, figures for the first half of 2009 show an annual decrease is likely in 2009 - there have been 24 cases in the first six months of the year.

The number of new HIV diagnoses has risen sharply in last 10 years - there were just nine in 1998.

Just over half of the new cases of the virus in 2008, 55%, were acquired through sex between men and women.

Three hundred and ninety six people with HIV were receiving care in Northern Ireland in 2008.

An estimated 33.4 million people across the world are living with HIV/Aids.

Tuesday is World Aids Day and Dr Lorraine Doherty, of the Public Health Agency, said: "There is no cure for HIV, but treatment can keep the virus under control and the immune system healthy.

"People on HIV treatment can live an active life, particularly if they have been diagnosed early. More people are living with HIV than ever before due to more effective antiretroviral treatment.

"World Aids Day puts the spotlight firmly on the disease and also provides an opportunity to raise awareness about a range of other sexually transmitted infections, some of which are on the increase in Northern Ireland."

HIV drugs
Antiretroviral treatment has become more effective

She said people who are sexually active and particularly those who don't know their partner's sexual or drug history, are at risk of catching STIs.

"For your own peace of mind contact your GP or local Genito Urinary Medicine (GUM) clinic and arrange to have a check-up if you think you may have put yourself at risk.

"If you do have an STI you should contact anyone you have had sex with to prevent them passing it on to another partner."

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