The number of people in Northern Ireland living with HIV has quadrupled over the past decade, new figures have shown.
The Public Health Agency has published the latest statistics on sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV, to coincide with World Aids Day.
The most recent figures show the number of new HIV diagnoses fell by a quarter from 91 in 2008 to 68 in 2009. However, as people with HIV are surviving longer because of advances in treatment, the number of people living with the virus in Northern Ireland rose to 424 in 2009 — 7% more than the previous year.
Although more than half of diagnoses in 2009 occurred in men who have had sex with men, heterosexual transmission has assumed increasing significance and similar numbers of people are now acquiring their infection through heterosexual contact.
The majority of infections in men who have had sex with men are acquired within the UK, while the majority of infections acquired through heterosexual contact are acquired outside the UK.
Dr Neil Irvine, consultant in health protection at the PHA, said: “World Aids Day is a great opportunity to raise awareness. It’s extremely important that we continue to monitor HIV and other sexually transmitted infections and look at the overall trends, not just the variations that can occur naturally each year.”