200% rise in HIV tests in Southern Trust area

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Record numbers of local people are being tested for HIV, according to the latest government figures.

Last year, 1467 patients were tested for the disease at the Southern Trust’s Genitourinary Medicine clinic at Daisyhill Hospital, a rise of almost 200 percent since 2005, when there were just 538 tests.

Since then, a total of 15,883 HIV tests have been carried out in the local trust.

Across Northern Ireland, eighty-one men and 22 women were diagnosed with HIV during 2015, bringing the total being treated for the virus which damages the immune system to almost three times what it was in 2006.

The 103 cases of HIV diagnosis last year is the highest number ever to be recorded in a single year.

It is estimated that hundreds more do not know that they have HIV.

Ninety-three percent of the 934 people currently being treated for the virus are receiving antiretroviral therapy which is a combination of drugs which aim to suppress the virus and stop progression of the disease.

The figures were released on the Detail TV, an online investigate news website.

Dr Say Quah, consultant in Genitourinary Medicine at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, called for a new strategy in dealing with the rise in cases.

He said: “Year on year, there is an increase in the number of people diagnosed with sexually transmitted infections such as HIV, syphilis and gonorrhoea. Poor sexual health is a significant burden on the wellbeing of people living in Northern Ireland.

“We have many health and social care organisations and volunteer sector organisations that can contribute greatly to improve sexual health care – but we need our Assembly to set a strategic direction so that services can be developed in tandem with health promotion with a common goal of collaboration between all stakeholders.”