Figures published yesterday showed that over 90 Scots were diagnosed HIV positive since the beginning of this year. Between January and March 2010, 91 people were affected, bringing the overall Scottish diagnosis rate to 6,338.
All of the diagnosed cases involved those aged between 25 and 44. In response, several sexual health charities in Scotland warned that rates were reaching an “all time high” owing to the growing disregard for using protection of any kind.
Of those diagnosed, 25 were in the Lothian area, 19 in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, nine each in Grampian and Tayside, eight in Lanarkshire and six in the Highlands. Fourteen new AIDS cases were also detected in the Glasgow health board area.
Alarmingly, this trend has been on an upward trajectory for over a deacde. In 1998 there were 168 new cases, 95 of whcih had been caught in Scotland. By 2007 the figure had soared to 452 new HIV infections, with 226 caught outside the UK. In 2008 numbers dipped to 411 and then rose again in 2009 to 417.
Of Scotland’s HIV population, over a third – 36.8 per cent – are gay men. Catherine Murphy, policy and parlimentary officer for Terrence Higgins Trust Scotland, said: “HIV diagnoses are at an all-time high in Scotland. Certain groups are more at risk of infection, such as gay men and people from countries where HIV is very common.
“But we are also seeing a persistent number of new cases in heterosexual men and women from Scotland. Last year, 36 per cent of people who tested positive in Scotland were diagnosed late at a point when the virus had already done significant damage to their immune system. This is something we have to change.”
It has been suggested by Labour’s health spokesman, Doctor Richard Simpson, that there is a definite need to refresh the public awareness campaign, but without resorting to the scare-tactics required in the 1980s. Others disagree, saying hard-hitting campaigns are the only way to make people sit up and take notice.