The sexual health of people living in the North West has reached
crisis levels, according to experts.
The warning comes as a study by the Centre for Public Health at
Liverpool John Moores University revealed an increase in HIV
The number of new HIV infections in the region was the biggest
since regional monitoring began in 1996.
A total of 725 new HIV and Aids cases were reported in 2003 - a
regional increase of 18% from 2002.
There are now 2,988 people in the North West living with
HIV/Aids, which is also the highest level since regional figures
became available in 1996, and a 23% on last year.
Other sexually transmitted diseases, such as chlamydia and
syphilis, are at epidemic levels in some parts of the region.
The centre's Professor Mark Bellis said: "Over the last ten years
sexual health in the North West has deteriorated rapidly and is
now at crisis levels.
"We urgently need better sex education in schools, widespread
promotion of condoms in the media and additional investment in
increasingly overstretched treatment services."
He was backed by a host of sexual health experts from across the
Professor Qutub Syed, director of the Health Protection Agency
North West, said: "The increased incidence of sexually
transmitted infections in the North West and across the country
is truly shocking.
"People need to wake up to the reality of a very serious
situation and start taking responsibility for their own actions
and for those of their partners."
"HIV is not something that happened in the 1980s. It is a real
and present danger and we are seeing more and more new cases,
year after year.
"There are also significant levels of syphilis and chlamydia in
Manchester and other major centres.
"People must understand that unprotected sex is a lottery and a
gamble that is not worth taking."
Safer sex plea
Dr. Penny Cook, Senior Lecturer in Communicable Diseases at John
Moores, who compiled the latest figures, added: "A significant
number of people are continuing to ignore the advice about safe
"These risks are unnecessary when STIs can be prevented by simply
wearing a condom during sex whoever you are, whoever you're with
and wherever you are."
Regional Director for Public Health John Ashton said parents had
to teach their children about the need for safer sex.
He said: "I am concerned that although the North West was at the
leading edge when it came to responding to this epidemic in the
1980s, complacency now seems to have set in.
"This is part of a wider problem that in this country, parents do
not talk with their children about matters to do with sex.
"Not to do this is putting our young children at risk."