Recent trends in HIV and other STIs in the United Kingdom: data to the end of 2002

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Sexual health in the United Kingdom has deteriorated in recent years with further increases in HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) reported in 2002. This paper describes results from the available surveillance data in the United Kingdom from the Health Protection Agency and its national collaborators. The data sources range from voluntary reports of HIV/AIDS from clinicians, CD4 cell count monitoring, a national census of individuals living with HIV, and the Unlinked Anonymous Programme, to statutory reports of STIs from genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics and enhanced STI surveillance systems. In 2002, an estimated 49 500 adults aged over 15 years were living with HIV in the United Kingdom, of whom 31% were unaware of their infection. Diagnoses of new HIV infections have doubled from 1997 to 2002, mainly driven by heterosexuals who acquired their infection abroad. HIV transmission also continues within the United Kingdom, particularly among homo/bisexual men who, in 2002, accounted for 80% of all newly diagnosed HIV infections acquired in the United Kingdom. New diagnoses of syphilis have increased eightfold, and diagnoses of chlamydia and gonorrhoea have doubled from 1997 to 2002 overall; STI rates disproportionately affect homo/bisexual men and young people. Effective surveillance is essential in the provision of timely information on the changing epidemiology of HIV and other STIs; this information is necessary for the targeting of prevention efforts and through providing baseline information against which progress towards targets can be monitored.

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