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‘Considerable rise’ in HIV and Aids in Northern Ireland

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People travelling abroad are partly to blame for an increase in HIV and Aids cases in Northern Ireland, according to a sexual health consultant.

Official figures show there has been a significant rise in the number of HIV and Aids cases, and Dr Raymond Maw, a consultant in the Genito-Urinary clinic at Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital and a representative of the British Association of Sexual Health and HIV, believes these volumes have even been under-estimated by about a third.

According to Dr Maw, infections picked by foreign travellers have caused more heterosexual people to be exposed to the disease outside the UK.

Dr Maw linked the problem to ‘people coming back and emigrating here, it doesn't even give a true representation of what we have to do every day’.

Approximately 250 people are receiving anti-retroviral therapy which can cost over£1m from the drugs budget.

Figures show there were 65 new cases diagnosed in 2007, significantly higher than 2001.

Dr Naresh Chada, senior medical officer at the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety in Northern Ireland, said: ‘Some of the preliminary figures for 2008 suggest that there would be quite a considerable increase on the previous years.

‘It is difficult for us to say why those figures are going up. There seems to be a mixture of issues, one of the continuing infection of men who have sex with men but there is also an increase in heterosexual HIV,’ she said.

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