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Report: 84 new HIV cases recorded in Northern Ireland last year

More than 80 new cases of HIV were diagnosed in Northern Ireland last year. (Chris Jackson/PA)
More than 80 new cases of HIV were diagnosed in Northern Ireland last year. (Chris Jackson/PA)

By David Reed

More than 80 new cases of HIV were diagnosed in Northern Ireland last year.

The figures emerged ahead of World Aids Day this Sunday.

A new report from the Public Health Agency shows there are 1,130 people here living with HIV.

The 'HIV surveillance in Northern Ireland 2019' report shows that 84 new first-UK cases of HIV were diagnosed here in 2018.

The report provides analysis of the HIV data for Northern Ireland in 2018 and trends over the years.

HIV - human immunodeficiency virus - is a notorious virus that damages the cells in your immune system and weakens your ability to fight everyday infections and disease.

The Public Health Agency (PHA) urged people to practise safer sex and get tested early if they have put themselves at risk.

Dr Claire Neill, specialty registrar in public health at the PHA, said: "The report shows a 4% increase in the number of people living with HIV in Northern since 2017 (1,085).

"Ninety-eight percent of those receiving care, and where route of transmission was known, acquired their infection through sexual contact.

"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."

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.

Of the 84 new first-UK cases of HIV which were diagnosed in Northern Ireland, 43 (51%) occurred in men who have sex with men (MSM), while 31 (37%) occurred after heterosexual transmission. Thirty (42%) new HIV diagnoses were made at a late stage.

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."

Dr Neill said 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," she added.

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