Shock rise in HIV and AIDS cases

HIV and AIDS cases in the east of England rose by 13 per cent in the last year, it emerged today.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.

HIV and AIDS cases in the east of England rose by 13 per cent in the last year, it emerged today.

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.

Nick Partridge, chief executive of the Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “There are two things behind this - firstly an increase in the number of people getting checked for HIV or AIDS.

“However we also know that 30 per cent of those with the illness have not been diagnosed.”

This figure is calculated through 'unlinked anonymous surveys' - tests carried out on discarded blood samples taken at hospitals and clinics from patients receiving treatment for unrelated conditions.

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Mr Partridge said: “What we need to do is make HIV testing more easily available, but we also need more safer sex campaigning, aimed particularly at young people and gay men.

“There are very few serious illnesses that have seen an increase of 13 per cent.

“HIV is a transmittable illness and evidence shows it is growing, however because of the fall in the level of education there may be a public perception that it is going away.

“These figures show this is not the case.”

Mr Partridge said money spent on HIV prevention had been falling over the last decade and this trend needed to be reversed to combat the increase in the disease.

Norman Foster, integrated sexual health lead for Suffolk Primary Care Trust, said the trust is currently in consultation over plans to modernise sexual health services across the county.

He said: “One of the ideas we are looking at is to move treatment for less serious sexual infections like gonorrhoea and chlamydia to community family planning units, freeing up acute treatment facilities at hospitals for more serious infections like HIV.

“We will be looking at the figures from the Health Protection Agency as part of the consultation.”

Anyone who wants to give their ideas or opinions to the consultation can visit www.suffolkpct.nhs.uk and click on the consultation link.

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