- There has been a huge increase in cases of HIV infection
among people coming to Scotland from Africa, according to figures published
by the National Health Service.
- In the past four years, the number of new cases of HIV
among heterosexual Africans in Scotland has more than trebled. Experts
believe the rise poses as big a threat to society as the virus did among
gay men and intravenous drug users in the 1980s. Then, only an unprecedented
public health campaign and radical measures, such as needle exchange schemes
for addicts, prevented an explosion in HIV and AIDS.
- "How we identify this group to offer them a test
is the number one public health priority in HIV," said Professor David
Goldberg, a consultant epidemiologist at the Scottish Centre for Infection
and Environmental Health. "It is essential we have a testing strategy
specifically designed for Africans living in Scotland."
- In 1999, the centre recorded 23 new cases of HIV among
heterosexual Africans. That rose to 31 in 2000 and 36 in 2001 - but last
year, the number reached 74. By the end of September this year, 50 cases
had been recorded and it is predicted the total will reach a new high.
- Prof Goldberg said there was evidence that African sub-types
of HIV have spread among the general population in Scotland. He added:
"Offering tests to people coming into this country should be a priority
and presented as a benefit to the individual as well as Scotland. We were
able to do this in the early 1980s, when we targeted gay men and drug injectors."
- On Monday - World Aids Day - Prof Goldberg will debate
the issue with Dr Mac Armstrong, the Scottish Executive's chief medical
officer, and professionals working in the field of HIV.
- Of the 34.3 million people in the world with the virus,
two-thirds live in sub-Saharan Africa. In countries such as Botswana, prevalence
rates rise as high as one in three and in South Africa, half of all teenagers
are estimated to be HIV positive. In contrast, Britain has a prevalence
rate of 0.11 per cent.
- Africans who have tested positive in Scotland are a combination
of asylum seekers, immigrants and students. In all, nearly 6,000 asylum
seekers have been moved to Glasgow under the Home Office's dispersal strategy.
HIV figures in Greater Glasgow have, for the first time, overtaken Lothian.
- ©2003 Scotsman.com