NDSC publishes HIV figures for 2003

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The National Disease Surveillance Centre today (Thursday) published figures outlining the number of HIV cases recorded in Ireland in 2003.

There were 399 newly diagnosed cases of HIV in Ireland in 2003 - a 10% increase when compared with 2002. 221 cases were heterosexually acquired. This compares with 232 cases in 2002. However, this data must be interpreted with caution, as information on risk group is unavailable for 39 of the newly diagnosed cases in 2003, making analysis of trends difficult.

196 of those diagnosed in 2003 were female, and 202 were male. 79% of these cases were in 20 to 40 year olds.

199 of the newly diagnosed cases in 2003 were among people born in sub-Saharan Africa, while 133 cases were born in Ireland. Information on geographic origin is unavailable for 41 cases. 

There were 75 new diagnoses among men who have sex with men (MSMs) during 2003, compared with 46 for the previous year.

There were 47 new diagnoses among injecting drug users during 2003 compared to 50 in 2002.

NDSC specialist in public health medicine, Dr Mary Cronin, said that the number of infections among MSMs is likely to reflect an increase in risky sexual behaviour in this group.

"Increases in risky sexual behaviour, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections have been reported from Western Europe. The number of diagnoses in people born in sub Saharan Africa 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.

"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 2003. The number of new diagnoses reported is dependent on patterns of HIV testing and reporting.

"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," said Dr Cronin.