Number of New HIV Cases in United Kingdom Up 20% Since 2001
The number of new HIV cases in the United Kingdom has risen 20% since 2001, bringing the total number of individuals living with HIV/AIDS in the United Kingdom to approximately 50,000, the country's Health Protection Agency said on Monday, Reuters reports. The number of reported cases of other sexually transmitted diseases that can facilitate HIV transmission has also increased, with the number of gonorrhea cases among men who have sex with men nearly doubling from 1,842 cases in 1999 to 3,363 cases in 2002 and the number of syphilis infections increasing from 52 to 607 during the same period. According to Dr. Kevin Fenton of the HPA, MSM are "most at risk" for HIV infection in the United Kingdom and represented approximately 80% of HIV cases diagnosed in 2002. However, Fenton said that the number of HIV cases related to heterosexual transmission increased from 147 in 1998 to 275 in 2002, according to Reuters (Reuters, 11/24). HIV cases among heterosexuals now outnumber cases among MSM two to one, according to London's Independent. Two-thirds of the new cases were acquired outside of the United Kingdom, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa, which triggered renewed calls for immigrants to be screened for the virus, the Independent reports (Laurance, Independent, 11/25). The increase in the number of reported STD cases is putting "extra pressure" on British health clinics, where some patients must wait weeks for appointments, according to Reuters. "The country now faces a very serious public health threat from [STDs]," James Johnson of the British Medical Association said. Fenton said that HIV-positive people who are diagnosed early have a greater chance of living longer, healthier lives, adding, "Awareness of their HIV status also enables people to make informed choices about their sexual behavior and practicing safer sex." The HPA figures were released in advance of World AIDS Day, which is on Dec. 1 (Reuters, 11/24).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.