Number living with HIV in Northern Ireland rises 10%

HIV There are now 522 people living with HIV infection

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There has been a 10% increase in the number of people living with HIV in the last two years, the Public Health Agency has said.

The annual HIV in Northern Ireland report highlighted a continuing rise in new HIV diagnoses, up by 3%, from 80 in 2010 to 82 in 2011.

There are now 522 people living with HIV infection, up 10% on 2010.

Of the 82 new HIV diagnoses 48 of these occurred in men who have sex with men, the report said.


HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus and on its own it does not kill you.

The virus can survive and grow only by infecting, and destroying, the immune system.

This continual assault on the immune system makes it weaker and weaker until it is no longer able to fight off infections.

Without treatment, it takes about 10 years from infection to the development of Aids - acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

It is then that "opportunistic infections", ones a healthy immune system could fight off, become deadly.

People can die from pneumonias, brain infections, diarrhoeal illnesses as well as certain tumours such as lymphoma and cervical cancer.

In 2000 there were 19 new HIV diagnoses, in 2011 there were 82.

The year for the largest number of new cases was 2008, with 93 new diagnoses.

In Northern Ireland nine people with HIV died in 2010.

Gay men are the group still most at risk of acquiring HIV within the UK, while the majority of heterosexual cases are acquired abroad.

Dr Jillian Johnston, Specialist Registrar, Public Health Agency, said that the report was being released in advance of World AIDS Day on Saturday to raise awareness about HIV.

"The safer sex message applies to everyone, regardless of whether you are straight or gay," he said.

"We know people may be infected with HIV without knowing, so it is important to protect yourself and to stop the spread of infection to others.

"Use condoms, limit the number of your sexual partners, and get checked at your local Genito Urinary Medicine (GUM) clinic or your GP surgery, if you could be at risk."

The World Health Organization reported that there were 34.2m people living with HIV in 2011, of whom 2.5m were newly diagnosed.

During 2011, 6,280 new HIV diagnoses were made in the UK, the PHA report said.

Last year 53,294 HIV tests were carried out in Northern Ireland, where the prevalence remains lower than in the other UK countries.

However, the increase in annual new diagnoses in Northern Ireland between 2000 and 2011 at 332% is the highest of the UK countries .

Last year 53,294 HIV tests were carried out in Northern Ireland, 25,828 of them were performed as part of the antenatal screening programme.

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