Northern Ireland HIV figures published ahead of World AIDS Day

Monday, 30 November 2015 – Health Protection
 Northern Ireland HIV figures published ahead of World AIDS Day

 The Public Health Agency (PHA) has published its ‘HIV surveillance in Northern Ireland 2015’ report today ahead of World AIDS Day (1 December). 

The report shows that during 2014, 94 new first-UK cases of HIV were diagnosed in Northern Ireland. The annual number of new diagnoses has remained stable since 2012. The report also shows that 51% of new HIV diagnoses in 2014 were made at a late stage.

The number of people living with HIV in Northern Ireland has increased to 809 in 2014, compared with 738 in 2013, an increase of nearly 10%. These figures reflect both new diagnoses and the increased survival rates associated with highly active antiretroviral therapy.

HIV/AIDS is a viral infection caused by type 1 and type 2 HIV retroviruses and can be transmitted through sexual contact, sharing of HIV-contaminated needles and syringes, and transmission from mother to child before, during, or shortly after birth.

Although prevalence in Northern Ireland remains lower than in the rest of the UK, the percentage increase in annual new diagnoses in Northern Ireland between 2000 and 2014 is highest of the UK countries. The key routes of transmission remain sexual contact involving men who have sex with men (MSM) and sexual contact between men and women.

Dr Neil Irvine, Consultant in Public Health with the PHA, stressed the importance of safer sex and getting tested for HIV if someone has put themselves at risk.

“The PHA is using World AIDS Day to raise awareness about HIV and urge people to practice safer sex. Many people could be infected with HIV without knowing it, so it is important to take steps to help protect yourself and reduce the spread of the infection.

“Statistics show that 51% of new HIV diagnoses were made at a late stage. If you’ve put yourself at risk it is really important to get tested for HIV to ensure an early diagnosis. People respond better to treatment when they are diagnosed at an earlier stage of disease.

“By having unprotected sex, you could effectively be sleeping with everyone your partner’s ever slept with, putting yourself at risk of getting HIV or another STI .We would advise people who are sexually active to use condoms, limit your number of sexual partners and get tested if you think you might be at risk.”

The report is available at: http://www.publichealth.hscni.net/publications/hiv-surveillance-northern-ireland-2015  

The PHA launched a public information campaign earlier this year, ‘Choose to protect yourself – always use a condom’, which encourages people to take steps to look after their sexual health. For information on this, the symptoms of HIV and STIs (as well as information on conditions which may have no symptoms), and for details of Northern Ireland GUM clinics, visit www.sexualhealthni.info