Concern at rise in HIV diagnoses

 

Health experts have warned against complacency over the spread of HIV infections after new figures today showed an increase in cases.

The statistics released in advance of Irish Aids Day tomorrow revealed a total of 337 HIV infections were diagnosed in 2006, compared to 318 in 2005.

The figures pointed to an increase in the number of HIV infections among gay men, though the majority of cases involved heterosexuals.

Executive Director of Dublin AIDS Alliance Mary O'Shea said it was the first time the number of recorded infections had risen in two years.

"Last year's increase in figures is of major concern and reinforces the notion that we cannot be complacent when it comes to tackling HIV," she said.

The figures compiled by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre revealed 169 of the 337 newly diagnosed cases were heterosexually acquired, compared to 168 in 2005 and 178 in 2004. Of the 169 cases acquired through heterosexual contact, 104 of those found to have been infected were born in sub-Saharan Africa.

Heterosexual transmission of HIV among Irish born nationals, however, again increased slightly from 32 cases in 2005 to 33 in 2006.

HIV acquired through intravenous drug use (IDUs) continued on a decline to 57 new cases compared to 66 in 2005 and 71 in 2004.

"This is one of the positive areas of the report where there has been a steady decline since 2004," said Ms O'Shea. "Once again we should not be complacent with IDUs infected with HIV.

"To continue this trend it's important that we continue to expand easy access facilities for drug users."

One of the main areas of concern highlighted by the group was the sharp increase in the infections among gay men, which rose from 57 cases in 2005 to 83 new diagnoses in 2006.

The figures were released as the Gay Men's Health Project held its fifth annual forum in Dublin Castle.

"Overall, these results highlight the consistent demand for the vital services we offer as well as the need for the continuation of our on-going health and education programmes," said Mick Quinlan the project co-ordinator.

The Dublin AIDS Alliance is today launching a website, www.stampoutstigma.ie, which is part of a campaign aimed at challenging HIV-related stigma and discrimination.