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Cases of HIV infection in UK rise by 8,000
 
 
  Doctors warn that, with the virus no longer seen as a killer, many young people are not practising safe sex
 
By Marie Woolf
Published: 19 November 2006
http://news.independent.co.uk
 
HIV infections have risen to a new high, amid fears that young people are not taking the disease seriously because it is no longer seen as a fatal illness.
 
New figures, released this week, are expected to show that almost 8,000 people were diagnosed with HIV last year, increasing the number of people living with the virus to around 70,000 in the UK. One in 10 gay men in London is now infected with HIV, with one in 25 across the country carrying the virus.
 
But around a third of people with HIV are unaware that they are carrying the virus, and there is fresh concern that some people are now carrying a cocktail of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, chlamydia, syphilis and gonorrhoea.
 
The annual report of the Health Protection Agency, the government-funded health watchdog which will release the official figures this week, is expected to highlight the rise in infection not only among gay and bisexual men but also among heterosexuals. Around two-thirds of heterosexuals with HIV acquired the infection abroad, primarily in African countries.
 
The report on sexually transmitted diseases will also show a worrying increase in the number who have contracted chlamydia and syphilis - sometimes in addition to HIV.
 
Some health professionals are concerned that young people are not practising safe sex because they no longer take the threat of HIV seriously since drug treatment has proved so successful in managing the condition.
 
One government source said there was increasing concern that people who grew up after the Aids scares of the late 1980s no longer saw the virus as life-threatening.
 
Most people who spread the infection are unaware they are carrying the virus.
 
The Terrence Higgins Trust, the charity which has launched campaigns to raise awareness of HIV, said too many people were taking risks because they felt HIV was a treatable disease or because they believed they were at low risk of contracting it.
 
The charity warned that some HIV-positive people were afraid to seek treatment for other sexually transmitted diseases as they feared that they would be accused of practising unsafe sex.
 
"Despite all the campaigns, HIV is still something that people think they will not get," said a spokeswoman for the charity.
 
"One of the problems is that if you have got one sexually transmitted disease it makes you more susceptible to others and more infectious. Someone could start off with gonorrhoea, then they contract HIV and that will amplify the transmissibility for the disease and also make them more infectious."
 
Julian Hows, 50, a management consultant who contracted HIV in the 1980s, said that when he first learned he had the disease he thought "I'm going to be dead in three years". But, he said, living with HIV is now very different.
 
"I got HIV before any therapies whatsoever. I quit my job and went round the world and thrashed my credit cards. In the late 1980s and early 1990s you could tell if someone had HIV, now you can't. One of the messages for people who are sexually active is sex is fun, but do not think that HIV has been cured or that because it is manageable it is just a question of taking pills.
 
"Also, you can do things that are relatively safe in terms of HIV but still pick up secondary infections."
 
HIV infections have risen to a new high, amid fears that young people are not taking the disease seriously because it is no longer seen as a fatal illness.
 
New figures, released this week, are expected to show that almost 8,000 people were diagnosed with HIV last year, increasing the number of people living with the virus to around 70,000 in the UK. One in 10 gay men in London is now infected with HIV, with one in 25 across the country carrying the virus.
 
But around a third of people with HIV are unaware that they are carrying the virus, and there is fresh concern that some people are now carrying a cocktail of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, chlamydia, syphilis and gonorrhoea.
 
The annual report of the Health Protection Agency, the government-funded health watchdog which will release the official figures this week, is expected to highlight the rise in infection not only among gay and bisexual men but also among heterosexuals. Around two-thirds of heterosexuals with HIV acquired the infection abroad, primarily in African countries.
 
The report on sexually transmitted diseases will also show a worrying increase in the number who have contracted chlamydia and syphilis - sometimes in addition to HIV.
 
Some health professionals are concerned that young people are not practising safe sex because they no longer take the threat of HIV seriously since drug treatment has proved so successful in managing the condition.
 
One government source said there was increasing concern that people who grew up after the Aids scares of the late 1980s no longer saw the virus as life-threatening.
 
Most people who spread the infection are unaware they are carrying the virus.
 
The Terrence Higgins Trust, the charity which has launched campaigns to raise awareness of HIV, said too many people were taking risks because they felt HIV was a treatable disease or because they believed they were at low risk of contracting it.
 
The charity warned that some HIV-positive people were afraid to seek treatment for other sexually transmitted diseases as they feared that they would be accused of practising unsafe sex.
 
"Despite all the campaigns, HIV is still something that people think they will not get," said a spokeswoman for the charity.
 
"One of the problems is that if you have got one sexually transmitted disease it makes you more susceptible to others and more infectious. Someone could start off with gonorrhoea, then they contract HIV and that will amplify the transmissibility for the disease and also make them more infectious."
 
Julian Hows, 50, a management consultant who contracted HIV in the 1980s, said that when he first learned he had the disease he thought "I'm going to be dead in three years". But, he said, living with HIV is now very different.
 
"I got HIV before any therapies whatsoever. I quit my job and went round the world and thrashed my credit cards. In the late 1980s and early 1990s you could tell if someone had HIV, now you can't. One of the messages for people who are sexually active is sex is fun, but do not think that HIV has been cured or that because it is manageable it is just a question of taking pills.
 
"Also, you can do things that are relatively safe in terms of HIV but still pick up secondary infections."
 
 
 
 
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