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94 HIV cases diagnosed in Northern Ireland last year

Published 30/11/2015

HIV is less prevalent in Northern Ireland than in the rest of the UK
HIV is less prevalent in Northern Ireland than in the rest of the UK

Ninety-four new cases of HIV were diagnosed in Northern Ireland last year.

The Public Health Agency (PHA) has also recorded a 10% rise in the number of people living with the virus, up from 738 in 2013 to 809 in 2014.

The figures reflect new diagnoses as well as increased survival rates as a result of antiretroviral therapy, the PHA said.

Dr Neil Irvine, consultant in public health with the PHA, said: " Many people could be infected with HIV without knowing it, so it is important to take steps to help protect yourself and reduce the spread of the infection.

"Statistics show that 51% of new HIV diagnoses were made at a late stage. If you've put yourself at risk it is really important to get tested for HIV to ensure an early diagnosis.

"People respond better to treatment when they are diagnosed at an earlier stage of disease."

HIV/Aids is a viral infection caused by type one and type two HIV retroviruses, the PHA said. It can be transmitted through sexual contact, sharing of contaminated needles or syringes and transmission from mother to child before, during, or shortly after birth.

Although prevalence in Northern Ireland remains lower than in the rest of the UK, the percentage increase in annual new diagnoses since 2000 is highest in the country.

The key routes of transmission remain sexual contact involving men who have sex with men and sexual contact between men and women.

Dr Irvine said: "By having unprotected sex, you could effectively be sleeping with everyone your partner's ever slept with, putting yourself at risk of getting HIV or another sexually transmitted illness.

"We would advise people who are sexually active to use condoms, limit your number of sexual partners and get tested if you think you might be at risk."

Publication of the PHA's HIV surveillance in Northern Ireland 2015 report comes ahead of World Aids Day on Tuesday.

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