Rise in number of people with HIV in Birmingham, England partially due to African immigrants
The number of people who are HIV positive is increasing by about 20 per cent a year in Birmingham and Solihull with the biggest growth among children.
Almost 1,300 adults have been diagnosed with the incurable disease in the area - more than double the number at the beginning of the Millennium.
Among children, the figure has spiralled from less than ten in 2000 to 62 testing HIV positive, with a new child being diagnosed on average every two weeks.
A further 29 babies have been born to HIV infected mothers who may go on to develop the virus.
Health experts blame an increase in people having unprotected sex and an influx of people from other parts of the world where Aids is more prevalent.
They believe the true number of adults carrying the disease is up to a third higher because many do not realise they are infected, increasing the danger of infecting others.
Dr Steve Taylor, lead consultant for HIV services at Birmingham's Heartlands Hospital, said the rise in child infections showed heterosexuals were as much at risk of developing Aids as the gay community.
"The perception is that it is a gay disease. The positive children data testifies to the fact that HIV knows no sexuality boundaries.
"The big message is that if children are affected, then women are affected. If women are affected, it is heterosexual. That shocks many people who consider HIV/Aids is not their problem."
Dr Taylor said all sexually transmitted diseases were on the increase as the mass awareness campaign of the 80s and early 90s became a distant memory.
"People are simply not using condoms and they are having more casual sex so it should come as no surprise that sexually transmitted infections are rising.
"A quarter to a third of people who have HIV don't know they have got it. There are people out there who have got it and don't know they have got it and are having unprotected sex and passing it on."
He also raised concern that people are coming to the UK from countries with very high infection rates.
"If you have immigration from countries like Zimbabwe and South Africa where up to one in three of the population can be infected with HIV then it comes as no surprise a significant proportion of recent migrants will also be infected," he said.
With more than ten new diagnoses every month at Heartlands Hospital, Dr Taylor said there was an urgent need for a new awareness campaign and investment in sexual health services.
"We need to normalise the HIV test and actively promote testing among people who have put themselves at risk," he said.
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