84 New HIV Cases Diagnosed In 2018

More than 80 new cases of HIV were diagnosed in Northern Ireland last year, it's been revealed.

The Public Health Agency is encouraging everyone to practise safer sex and get tested early if they have put themselves at risk.

The warning comes ahead of World AIDS day, Sunday 01 December.

Some 1,130 people are now living with the human immunodeficiency virus, according to the 'HIV surveillance in Northern Ireland 2019' report, which analyses trends over the years.

HIV/AIDS is a viral infection caused by type 1 and type 2 HIV retroviruses. It can be transmitted through sexual contact, sharing of HIV-contaminated needles and syringes, and transmission from mother to child before, during, or shortly after birth.

The figures for 2018 show a 4% increase in HIV on the previous year. In 98% of those cases, where the route of transmission is known, the virus was acquired through sexual conduct.

Dr Claire Neill, Specialty Registrar in Public Health at the PHA, said: "Many people who are living with HIV have no obvious signs or symptoms. The only way of knowing if you have the virus is by taking a HIV test. It is important not to delay seeking advice and taking this test if you feel you have been at risk."

Of the 84 new first-UK cases of HIV diagnosed in 2018, 43 (51%) occurred in men who have sex with men (MSM), while 31 (37%) occurred after heterosexual transmission.

Thirty (42%) of those new HIV diagnoses were made at a late stage.
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Dr Neill continued: "While there has been a small reduction in late diagnoses of HIV, a significant number of people are still being diagnosed at a late stage, which means that the virus may have already had a significant impact on their health. It is estimated that the majority of onward transmission is from those with undiagnosed HIV. So, it is really important for people to get tested early if they think they have put themselves at risk.

"People with HIV have a near-normal life expectancy if diagnosed early and treated promptly. Once diagnosed, individuals are less likely to pass on their infection due to treatment and changing their behaviour.

"It is also important to stress the importance of taking steps to reduce your likelihood of contracting the virus. If you have unprotected sex, you could effectively be sleeping with everyone your partner's ever slept with, putting yourself at risk of getting HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). If you are sexually active, use condoms, limit your number of sexual partners and get tested quickly if you think you might be at risk."

Further information on the symptoms of HIV and STIs and details of local GUM clinics can be found online. The NI Direct website also features a lot of useful advice.


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