Worrying rise in HIV cases
A SUFFOLK health boss has called for a new campaign stressing the dangers of unprotected sex to stem the soaring cases of infections.It comes as new figures show the number of people with HIV in the county has increased by around 65% from 150 five years ago to 250 this year.
A SUFFOLK health boss has called for a new campaign stressing the dangers of unprotected sex to stem the soaring cases of infections.
It comes as new figures show the number of people with HIV in the county has increased by around 65% from 150 five years ago to 250 this year.
Adrian Kirkby, county manager for sexual health and harm reduction, said a new national sexual health campaign dealing with all sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is “desperately needed”.
But he said unless this is backed up with investment in local services, such as family planning and sexual health clinics, then they may not be able to cope with the increased demand a campaign would produce.
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“It is two decades since we had the HIV campaign nationally,” he said. “New generations have not seen that and are not actually aware of the risks of unprotected sex or unprotected sexual contact.
“We are concerned. We did very well in the 1980s with the HIV campaigns, for example the needle exchange for drug users that was brought in at that time to minimise the impact, and as a result of that we had very low numbers in England and Suffolk.
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“It is now on the increase and before it becomes a serious problem and we see massive increases year on year we need people to take responsibility for their sexual health.”
Without a prevention campaign and local investment Suffolk will miss the Government target to achieve a 25% reduction in the number of newly-acquired HIV infections there were in 2002 by next year, Mr Kirkby said.
Although the Department of Health is currently running a national campaign, Mr Kirkby said very few people in Suffolk had seen it and realised the risks.
In the last year Suffolk has seen a hike of between 10 and 20% in the number of people newly diagnosed with HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus), which can lead to AIDS.
Mr Kirkby said it was part of a rising trend but now two thirds of cases are in heterosexual people and increasingly it is affecting younger people.
The figures were released after the Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire Strategic Health Authority revealed that the number of people newly-diagnosed with HIV, of which there is no cure, in the three counties had dramatically risen in four years.
The number of cases had remained relatively stable in the 10 years before 1999 but between 1999 and 2003 they soared from fewer than 40 to more than 140.
However, the number of people newly-diagnosed with AIDS and the number of people dying from the disease has remained stable for the 14 years at around 20.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health said its Sex Lottery sexual health education campaign for adults aged 18 to 30 in England aims to tackle the increasing rates of STIs among this age group.
She said it was part of the Department of Health's National Sexual Health and HIV strategy, which is a long-term plan to improve and modernise sexual health services.
The spokesperson said an additional £3m has been allocated for national-targeted HIV prevention and health promotion and the Department of Health helps fund a Sexual Health helpline on 0800 567123.