Reported HIV Infections Rose in the United Kingdom in 2000; Infections Among Heterosexuals Continue to Outpace Infections Among Gays
Around 3,400 new HIV infections were reported in the United Kingdom in 2000, an increase over previous years, and the number of new infections among heterosexuals outpaced new infections among gay men for the second straight year, according to the 2002 "Social Trends" report released this month by the Public Health Laboratory Service, the Guardian reports (Bowcott, Guardian, 1/31). In 2000, nearly half of new HIV infections resulted from heterosexual sex, compared to 21% in 1990, and 75% of those newly infected in 2000 through heterosexual sex acquired the virus abroad, with more than 800 infections attributed to contact with infected individuals in Africa (PHLS, "Social Trends," 2002). Dr. Barry Evans, head of the STD division at PHLS' Communicable Disease Surveillance Center, said some of the cases acquired abroad involve men and women from the United Kingdom who went to work or live in another country; however, most of the cases were among people who immigrated to the United Kingdom from countries with a higher prevalence of HIV. He also noted that the higher numbers of new infections are "not all doom and gloom," as many of the cases involve old infections that are just now being diagnosed. However, the government's National Strategy for Sexual Health and HIV, which aims to reduce new infections by 25%, "clearly has a substantial and important job to do," he said, adding that it is "vital that within the new strategy we reinvigorate the 'safer sex' message." The Terrence Higgins Trust, a British HIV advocacy group, cautioned the government about following through on plans to move HIV/AIDS prevention funding into the mainstream health budget from its current "protected" status. "It's a common misconception that HIV is no longer a problem in the U.K., and once again, the figures demonstrate that this is patently untrue," CEO Nick Partridge said, noting that funds are needed to support the government's "ambitious" HIV reduction targets. PHLS estimates that if new infections continue to rise at the current rate, the United Kingdom will have 34,000 total HIV cases by 2005, compared to 23,000 cases in 2000 (BBC News, 1/31).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.