The UNAIDS 2009 AIDS Epidemic Update, released today, shows that new HIV infections are down by 17 per cent over the last eight years around the world.

However, the number of new diagnoses of gay men in Europe has risen with gay men in the UK being particularly affected.

In the last eight years, there has been a 74 per cent rise in diagnoses of infections of gay men in the UK. This is the percentage of new diagnoses, rather than the rate of new infections.

In Europe, the figure rose by 39 per cent between 2003 and 2006.

The report said: “A re-emergence of the epidemic among men who have sex with men is now clearly apparent in many high-income countries.”

It added that this rise was “tied to an increase in sexual risk behaviours”.

The report also warned that there had been “sharp increases” of the number of gay men in high-income European countries becoming infected with other sexually transmitted infections.

Despite the rise in new HIV diagnoses in Europe and North America, rates of infection decreased globally.

Since 2001, when the United Nations Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS was signed, the number of new infections in sub-Saharan Africa is approximately 15 per cent lower. In East Asia new HIV infections declined by nearly 25 per cent and in South and South East Asia by 10 per cent in the same time period.

Deborah Jack, chief executive of National AIDS Trust, said: “The downward trend in new infections is a testament to the work of the international HIV community. It’s the result of the roll-out of treatment and increased investment in prevention initiatives.

“However today’s report shows there are gaps in prevention programmes that meet the needs of key groups, such as over 25s and gay men. We need to get smarter about HIV prevention and also sustain efforts to find new tools such as microbicides and a vaccine, if we are to seriously reduce new infections.

“Worryingly, the global decrease in new infections is not being seen in the UK. Here new diagnoses have trebled in the past ten years. HIV diagnoses among men who have sex with men in the UK rose by 74 per cent between 2000 and 2007. The UK needs to re-prioritise HIV prevention among gay men, otherwise we risk falling further behind.”