AIDS increasing fastest among young heterosexual women

Four people test HIV-positive every week in this State, and the rate of infection is increasing.

Four people test HIV-positive every week in this State, and the rate of infection is increasing.

The figures have been issued on this World AIDS Day with a warning that the infection is growing most rapidly among young heterosexual women.

Ms Beth Wallace, education officer with Dublin AIDS Alliance, believes the key to combating infection is in confidence-building as well as raising self-esteem among young people and young women in particular so that they will insist on safe sex.

"It is difficult for a 16-year-old girl who is not particularly self-confident to risk losing a relationship over condom use. It's not the responsibility of them to go in search of the information they need to protect themselves. It's the responsibility of adults to ensure they get it. The Department of Health should take the lead here," Ms Wallace said.


Dr Emer McHale, senior area medical officer with the Western Health Board and the region's AIDS co-ordinator, said young people were simply not protecting themselves against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

There has been an enormous increase in STIs among the under-20 age group at clinics across the State, she said.

"Young people are getting highly explicit sexual messages and they are given to believe that the way to be cool is to have sex early. They are not using condoms and they are having sex with people whose names they don't even know," she added.

Figures from the Department of Health show 32 new cases of AIDS were confirmed in the first seven months of this year, bringing the total number of cases in the Republic to 682.

The figures include 232 homosexuals/bisexuals, 280 IV drug-users, 90 heterosexuals, 33 people with haemophilia, 22 children and three transfusion recipients. Some 344 people have died of AIDS.

Seventy-six people tested HIV positive in the first five months of 1999. Last year 136 people tested positive.