Professor Mark Bellis, director of Public health at the centre for public health at Liverpool John Moores University, spoke out today about his fears over rising numbers of people in his region being in infected with HIV. He expressed his concern that “the true figures were probably even higher because of a slight reporting delay in new cases.”

The number of gay people being diagnosed with HIV each year has doubled over the last 4 years in Lancashire. Dramatic rises have also been reported in Cumbria, Liverpool and Manchester.

Though the most dramatic increase of infection is in the gay community, cases among heterosexuals have risen too, by 20%.

“We would hope after this many years of people knowing about HIV that the numbers of new people infected would be going down,” Mr Bellis said. “The reality is some people are simply ignoring safe sex messages and I think this shows we have to think about ways of making the message interesting to those who aren’t aware.”

Marc Thompson, of the Terrence Higgins Trust, said the increase in HIV among gay men in the county may be down to a number of factors. ” New treatments mean people live with HIV for longer and the more people with HIV, the higher the risk that it will be passed on. Also more men may be coming forward for testing.”

He emphasised that public heath campaigns still had an important role to play in HIV infection prevention. “It’s essential there is ongoing funding given to health campaigns and improving sexual health services,” he said.