HPSC publishes HIV and AIDS figures for 2008

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New figure released today (Thursday) by the HSE's Health Protection Surveillance Centre show 405 newly diagnosed case of HIV in Ireland during 2008 - a 3.6% increase compared with 2007 - and 28 new cases of AIDS.

The cumulative number of AIDS cases reported up the end of 2008 is 999, with 411 deaths reported among AIDS cases. There were three deaths among AIDS cases reported in 2008. The total number of HIV infections reported up to the end of 2008 is 5,243.

178 of the newly diagnosed HIV cases were heterosexually acquired, 97 new infections were among men who have sex with men (MSM) and 36 were among injecting drug users (IDUs). However, this data must be interpreted with caution as information on risk group is not available for 87 cases, making analysis of trends difficult.

258 of those diagnosed with HIV in 2008 were male, and 146 were female, while gender was unknown for one case.

There were seven new diagnoses of HIV infection in children during 2008. All are likely to have been infected through mother to child transmission (MCT). Of these, two were born in Ireland and the remaining five were older children who were born in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Of the 312 HIV cases where geographic origin is known, 123 were born in Ireland, 121 were born in sub-Saharan Africa, 28 were born in Western Europe and 17 in Central Europe.

HPSC specialist in public health medicine, Dr Aidan O'Hora, said that the number of patients presenting with an AIDS related illness continues to decline.

"This is reflected in the sustained drop in reported AIDS cases since 2003. The number of AIDS related deaths has also declined and these trends are welcome and suggest that individuals are accessing care and treatment early which in turn improves clinical outcomes and life expectancy.

"The antenatal HIV screening programme introduced in Ireland in 1999 continues to be a success. Mother to child transmission of HIV can be dramatically reduced or prevented by appropriate treatment and intervention measures. Of the total of 106 babies born to HIV infected mothers during 2008, only two were diagnosed with HIV infection, and one of these was born to a mother who was not known to be infected during pregnancy, and who later tested positive. 
 
"The overall HIV data suggest that the numbers are increasing, but are concentrated among a number of risk groups and may fluctuate from year to year. The figures highlight the continuing need for appropriate prevention and treatment services for all risk groups in Ireland, including migrants and ethnic communities.
 
"The number of people living with HIV is growing and 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.

"The epidemiology of HIV in Ireland is complex and due to the voluntary nature of the reporting system, it is likely that the number of case reports is an underestimate," added Dr O'Hora.

The HPSC 2008 HIV and AIDS report is available here.