Britain Has Record Number
Of HIV Diagnoses In 2002

By Patricia Reaney

LONDON (Reuters) - New cases of HIV diagnosed in Britain this year are expected to increase by 20 percent in what public health experts described on Saturday as an extremely worrying trend.
The record number of new cases is more than twice the amount being reported at the end of the 1990s.
"We're two decades into this and we still haven't got it under control in the UK, and it is one of the world's richest countries with a developed healthcare system," Dr Barry Evans, a health expert at the Public Health Laboratory Service (PHLS) which monitors infectious diseases, told Reuters.
New figures released by the PHLS on the eve of World AIDS Day on December 1 show that up to the end of September, 2,945 new diagnoses had been reported, compared to 2,354 for the same time last year.
By the end of 2002, the number is expected to hit 6,000, about 1,200 more than in 2001.
"We are moving in the wrong direction and that is extremely worrying," said Evans.
The increases in new HIV diagnoses represents heterosexual transmissions in people coming from highly infected countries, including sub-Saharan Africa where the epidemic has hit the hardest, and an increase in unsafe sex among gay men in Britain.
According to the PHLS estimates, approximately 1,500 gay men across the country are contracting HIV each year.
"Our best estimate of the overall number of HIV infected individuals within the UK, both diagnosed and undiagnosed, is around 41,200, and just over 12,900 of those are undiagnosed," Evans explained.
The latest statistics from the PHLS mirror increases in HIV infections around the world.
UNAID, the United Nations organization spearheading the global battle against HIV/AIDS, said earlier this week that by the end of 2002, 42 million people worldwide will be living with HIV/AIDS and five million were newly infected in 2002.
The global statistics also indicate that HIV/AIDS is increasingly becoming a disease affecting women. For the first time since the start of the epidemic, 50 percent of HIV-positive adults worldwide are female.
"Safe sex is everybody's responsibility, not only those who have been diagnosed with HIV or with other sexually transmitted infections (STIs)," Dr Kevin Fenton, the head of the HIV and STI division of the PHLS, said in a statement.
"It is vital that we start once again to educate people about the importance of practicing safer sex," he added.
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