Belfast Telegraph

Number of HIV sufferers in Northern Ireland reaches record high

By Adrian Rutherford

More than 1,000 people are now living with HIV in Northern Ireland, a charity has said.

It also revealed that 94 new cases were diagnosed here last year.

The statistics show that in 2016, 72 males and 22 females in Northern Ireland were told they had HIV.

The figures emerged ahead of World Aids Day tomorrow.

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that damages the cells in the immune system and weakens the person's ability to fight everyday infections and disease.

Aids (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) is the name used to describe a number of potentially life-threatening infections and illnesses that happen when the immune system has been severely damaged by the HIV virus.

While Aids can't be transmitted from one person to another, the HIV virus can.

There is no cure for HIV, but there are drug treatments that enable most people with the virus to live a long and healthy life.

Figures published today show the number of people living with HIV here has now passed 1,000 for the first time.

Of the 94 diagnosed in 2016, 29 people were aged between 25 and 34, and 35 were aged from 35 to 49. A small number were aged 65 or over at the time of their diagnosis.

Jacquie Richardson from Positive Life, Northern Ireland's only dedicated HIV charity, expressed concern at the figures, saying our rates were higher than other parts of the UK.

"For such a small population we are out of kilter with the rest of the UK and it is time more is done to address this," she said.

As many as one in five people with HIV in Northern Ireland are unaware that they have the infection, Ms Richardson said.

"There should be no embarrassment or shame in getting a HIV test if a person feels that they are at risk," she said.

"Our strong advice is to come to us at Positive Life at 20 Derryvolgie Avenue in south Belfast to get tested, or to one of the many locations available across Northern Ireland."

Belfast Telegraph

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