An extra £1m is to be invested in work to tackle the rise in HIV cases amongst gay men and African communities in this country, Public Health Minister Caroline Flint announced today.

The money will be used by the Terrence Higgins Trust and African HIV Policy Network on projects to strengthen HIV prevention and reduce transmission rates amongst these most at risk groups.

Speaking at a conference titled HIV in the 21st Century – The Challenge Ahead this morning, Ms Flint said: “Thanks to new antiretroviral therapies, health outcomes for people with HIV have improved dramatically. However, HIV is still a life threatening illness for which there is no cure and new infections continue to take place in this country.

“Gay men and African communities bear the brunt of HIV in the UK. The Health Protection Agency reported last week that there were 2400 new cases of HIV in gay men. While two thirds of all new cases in 2005 were amongst black and ethnic minority populations. The challenge is to tackle increases in infection rates by improving our targeting of these groups.

“The extra money we are announcing today is in addition to the £130m we are already investing in modernising sexual health clinics and services throughout the country and the £1.7 million we have already targeted at HIV health promotion for gay men and African communities.”

Rod Watson, Deputy Head of Health Promotion at the Terrence Higgins Trust said:

“More people are living with HIV in the UK than ever before so effective prevention work has never been more important. This extra funding will allow us to establish new projects to reach those already diagnosed with HIV as well as those at highest risk. The funding will also help us to tackle the stigma and discrimination which often affects people living with HIV.”

The announcement comes in time for World AIDS Day on Friday, Ms Flint added:

“As we approach World AIDS Day in two days time, we reflect that it is twenty-five years since HIV first appeared in the US, Africa and Europe and this is a bittersweet moment.

“We need to take stock on what has been achieved since the early days and celebrate that, whilst at the same time squaring up to what remains to be done.”