HIV ‘Fastest Growing’ Health Problem in England, Report Says
HIV has become England's "fastest growing serious health condition," according to an announcement made on Wednesday by the country's chief medical officer, London's Guardian reports (Boseley, Guardian, 7/29). The number of newly diagnosed HIV cases increased 55% between 2000 and 2002 from 3,629 to 5,615 new cases, CMO Sir Liam Donaldson said in his annual report ("Annual Report of the Chief Medical Officer," 7/28). By the end of 2002, an estimated 43,500 HIV-positive people lived in England, but about one-third had not been diagnosed because of clinics' failure to test patients at high risk for the disease, according to the report (Guardian, 7/29). The report also said that waiting times for the country's sexually transmitted disease clinics are "unacceptably long" and that 60% of men who have sex with men, 36% of heterosexuals born in sub-Saharan Africa and 50% of other heterosexuals were not tested for HIV when they visited STD clinics (Newcastle Journal, 7/29). The report recommended that everyone who attends an STD clinic in England be offered an HIV test (Fisher, Daily Mirror, 7/29). The report also recommended that any MSM; person with syphilis, acute gonorrhea or recurrent STDs; or any heterosexual who has had sexual intercourse in a country with high HIV prevalence should be offered an HIV test in any health setting ("Annual Report of the Chief Medical Officer," 7/28). Donaldson said, "More needs to be done to ensure that people who are infected with HIV are detected at an earlier stage so that they do not then infect other people, and so that their own health care treatment can commence earlier to reduce progression of the disease" (Newcastle Journal, 7/29).
Increase in Cases of Other STDs
The country's Health Protection Agency on Tuesday reported that the total number of STD cases -- excluding HIV -- increased 4% between 2002 and 2003 (Ross, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 7/27). The number of reported chlamydia infections increased 9% between 2002 and 2003, while the number of syphilis cases increased 28% over the same period, according to HPA, Reuters reports (Reaney, Reuters, 7/27). HPA said that the greatest increase occurred among individuals ages 16 to 24 and that the increases could be attributed to unprotected sex, according to London's Evening Standard (Smith, Evening Standard, 7/27). Some sexual health advocates said that the increases also could be attributed to delays in treatment, lack of sex education, long waiting lists at clinics and increases in the number of people volunteering to be tested, according to the AP/Sun. STDs such as syphilis or chlamydia can increase a person's likelihood of transmitting or acquiring HIV during sex, according to the AP/Sun (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 7/27).