NDSC publishes HIV and AIDS figures for 2002

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The National Disease Surveillance Centre today (Tuesday) published figures outlining the number of HIV and AIDS cases recorded in Ireland in 2002.

The figures show that there were 364 cases of HIV in Ireland in 2002 - a 22% increase when compared with 2001. The majority of cases - 63.5% - were among heterosexuals representing a rise of 34% between 2001 and 2002. 198 (54.4%) of those diagnosed in 2002 were female, and 165 (45.3%) were male. Over 80% of these cases were in 20 to 40 year olds.

186 of the newly diagnosed cases (51.1%) in 2002 were among people born in sub-Saharan Africa. The number of diagnoses mirrors the epidemiology of HIV in other Western European countries and is not unexpected, given that 70% of the world's HIV cases are found in sub-Saharan Africa.

There were 46 new diagnoses among men who have sex with men during 2002, compared with 73 for the previous year - a 37% decrease. There was a rise in the number of infections in intravenous drug users from 38 to 50, representing a 32% increase. NDSC public health specialist, Dr Mary Cronin said that the number of infections among intravenous drug users and men who have sex with men tend to fluctuate from year to year. "The figures should be interpreted with caution, as it remains to be seen whether the trends will be sustained," she said.

It is important to note that these figures do not represent the number of people infected with the HIV virus in Ireland, but rather provide information on the number of new diagnoses in 2002. The number of new diagnoses reported is dependent on patterns of HIV testing and reporting.

There were 12 cases of AIDS reported to the NDSC in 2002, bringing the total number of AIDS cases in Ireland to date to 731. This figure is likely to be an underestimation as there is a delay in reporting AIDS cases in Ireland. Seven of the 12 cases (58%) reported in 2002 were amongst heterosexuals. There were four AIDS related deaths reported in 2002, bringing the total number of AIDS related deaths in Ireland to date to 369.

NDSC public health specialist, Dr Mary Cronin said that the figures highlight the continuing need for appropriate prevention and treatment services for all risk groups in Ireland, including migrants and ethnic communities. Furthermore, given the increases in sexually transmitted diseases which facilitate the transmission of HIV infection, people should heed the safe sex message. Anyone engaging in sexual activity should practice safe sex. A properly used condom provides effective protection from HIV and AIDS," said Dr Cronin.