LONDON (Reuters) - The number of British people diagnosed as
carrying the virus that causes AIDS has
reached record levels according to figures released Thursday.
The Public Health Laboratory Service (PHLS) said 2,868 people
were diagnosed with HIV last year, up 7
percent from 1999, and that the number was set to rise.
"This is the second consecutive year where we have reported
record high levels of HIV diagnosis," said Dr. Barry Evans of
PHLS. "We are now two decades into the HIV epidemic, but we
continue to see new cases of an infection which is largely
preventable. We cannot afford to be complacent about safer
While gay and bisexual men remain the largest HIV risk groups,
in the past two years more heterosexuals than gays have been
diagnosed as carriers. Evans pointed to the large increase in
other sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhea as
evidence that people were putting themselves at risk of
Last month PHLS released figures showing STDs at a 10-year
high. There are now more than 20,000 people in Britain
diagnosed as having HIV although the Terrence Higgins Trust, a
leading AIDS organization, believes that as many as 10,000 more
are unknowingly carrying the virus.
"The (latest) figures clearly show that the HIV epidemic in
the UK is not going away," a spokeswoman for the Trust said.
"It's therefore vital that HIV prevention work continues to be
funded and promoted if we are to slow down the rate of new
One encouraging sign, according to Evans, is that many of the
new cases were people infected years ago but who only now were
coming forward to be tested.
"This is positive because once people come forward they can be
offered treatment," he said.
The majority of heterosexual infections were acquired abroad by
visitors to, or people from, areas of high prevalence such as