HIV battle takes to the streets

ADVICE and free condoms will be given out in Ipswich this weekend as part of the fight against the rise of HIV and AIDS in Suffolk. World AIDS Day on Saturday will see teams taking to the streets, pubs and bars in the town to hand out contraceptives following news of an increase of the illness.

ADVICE and free condoms will be given out in Ipswich this weekend as part of the fight against the rise of HIV and AIDS in Suffolk.

World AIDS Day on Saturday will see teams taking to the streets, pubs and bars in the town to hand out contraceptives following news of an increase of the illness.

And late-night shoppers in the town centre will be able to stop in at the information stand on the Cornhill on Thursday to talk about worries they may have.

As previously revealed in the Star, HIV and AIDS cases in the east of England rose by 13 per cent in the last year.

The shock rise, higher than for most serious illnesses, prompted healthcare professionals and charities for call for a return to the intensive education on the illness and safer sex prevalent in previous decades.

The figures from the Health Protection Agency show that 3,295 people were receiving treatment in 2006, and the rise in the east is above the national average of 11 per cent.

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County manager for sexual health and harm reduction, Adrian Kirkby, said: “There has been not only a rise in HIV and AIDS treatment but a rise in other sexually transmitted infections as well.

“What this highlights is a need to increase the provision of sexual health education across the county.

“We need to make sure condoms are readily available, and people have access to advice and information as well.

“The issue has dropped off the public agenda recently. When the issue first hit the news, scare stories predicted massive numbers of infections across the world and that never happened - it wasn't as bad as some people predicted, so people seem to have become complacent.

“But it is still a huge problem that needs continuing efforts to address.”

Mr Kirkby said that although the issue is something that is often promoted as affecting young people, anyone of any age who is sexually active could be affected.

He said: “People need to be more confident in going for testing - we have three fantastic clinics serving the people of Suffolk at Ipswich Hospital, West Suffolk Hospital and the James Paget hospital in Norfolk.

“People still think that it is something that will not happen to them. We are trying to challenge that perception.”

The first step that anyone worried about sexual health should do is to contact their sexual health clinic.

In Ipswich, the clinic at Ipswich hospital can be contacted on 01473 711011.

What should be done to improve sexual health education in Suffolk? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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