Newly diagnosed cases of HIV jumped by 21% in the first half of 2007 when compared to the same period in 2006, new figures have shown.
According to the figures from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC), there were 204 new cases of HIV reported in the first six months of last year.
The way in which the disease was contracted was known in 150 of these cases. Of these, 53% were as a result of heterosexual sexual contact, 23% were as a result of injecting drug use, while 21% were as a result of male-to-male sexual contact.
The Dublin AIDS Alliance expressed serious concern about the figures. According to the alliance’s executive director, Mary O’Shea, they reinforce the fact that continuing awareness of HIV is needed.
“HIV among the heterosexual population is rising. People need to be aware of the risks and take the necessary precautions. The figures show that more work is required in developing sexual health and prevention strategies nationally”, she said.
Of the 204 new cases of HIV, the geographic origin was known in 121 of the cases. Of these, 41% were born in sub-Saharan Africa and 40% were born in Ireland.
The area of residence meanwhile was known in 108 cases and of these, 78% were resident in Dublin, Wicklow or Kildare.
Just over half (54%) of the newly diagnosed cases were male, 39% were female and the gender was unknown in the remaining cases. The average age at diagnosis was 33.
In an attempt to tackle the increase in HIV, the Dublin AIDS Alliance has made the following recommendations: -The Government must develop and implement a national sexual health strategy modelled on the National Drugs Strategy. -Primary (GP) healthcare services should be expanded to include services for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). -The relationship and sexuality education component of the Social, Personal and Health Education programme should be continued into senior cycle, as it is currently limited to primary and post-primary junior cycles only.
The alliance welcomed the recent reduction of VAT on condoms from 21% to 13.5%, but said that this measure did not go far enough.
“VAT should be fully removed from condoms in order to do as much as possible to encourage their use to combat the spread of STIs among vulnerable and at risk groups”, Ms O’Shea added.