Safe sex pays off with lower rates of HIV

If artists think that Aids has fallen out of the public gaze, they may well be correct. Aids has, to some extent, fallen victim to the success of the Government's health education programme.

The much feared break-out of the disease from the highest risk groups into the general population has not happened - yet - with anything like the rapidity that so concerned policy makers in the mid-1980s. The Government's "Don't die of ignorance" campaign, much criticised at the time, does seem to have influenced sexual behaviour and to have helped slow the spread of infection with HIV, the virus responsible for the disease.

Other countries quailed at the idea of lecturing their people on safe sex and, as a result, Spain last year had four times as many new Aids cases as Britain; France had three times and Italy twice as many.

Even before the Government campaign, Britain's gay community - one of the most afflicted - had started adopting safer sex practices. Roughly a decade later, in 1994, what had appeared to be a relentlessly rising graph of Aids cases among homosexuals started to decline. Between 1995 and 1999, according to official figures from the Public Health Laboratory Service, "it is expected that new Aids cases in homo/bisexual men may fall by 7 per cent".

A decade is the approximate "latency" period from infection to the development of full blown Aids and so the change in the incidence was an oblique, epidemiological demonstration of the linkage between HIV infection and unsafe sex.

However, the incidence of Aids is continuing to rise in the heterosexual community and among intravenous drug users, according to the PHLS figures. Any complacency could increase the spread of the disease, as the experience of Africa and south-east Asia demonstrates.

Globally, about 10,000 people become newly infected every day. More than 11 million Africans and about 4 million inhabitants of south-east Asia are infected with HIV. In the Third World the disease is largely spread by unprotected heterosexual intercourse.

But a significant number of people in Britain are dying from the disease. Some are gay men; some are intravenous drug users; some are haemophiliacs; and others have acquired the disease from heterosexual intercourse.

Viral diseases are not amenable to treatment with antibiotics, such as penicillin, which attack and kill only bacteria. Early hopes that existing anti-viral drugs might prove efficacious against HIV have been dashed.

Vaccination to boost the body's inbuilt defences against microbial attack is the most efficient method of combating viral infections. But HIV is a "new" virus of a type that was previously little understood. It carries its genetic material in the form of RNA rather than the more usual DNA and it insinuates itself into the body's cells, tricking them into converting the viral genetic instructions out of RNA into DNA and then inserting them into the cell's own double helix strand of DNA. The cell's biochemical machinery is hijacked into becoming a factory for the production of more and more copies of HIV.

But HIV has a further twist: the cells that it infiltrates are those of the immune system - the very ones that ought to be fighting off infections.

The early hopes of a quick fix were fuelled in the US by pressure from lobby groups on behalf of the dying. In recent times however, the focus of research has switched to lower profile work which recognises that humanity's struggle against this killer will be a long haul.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

    Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

    His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
    'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

    Open letter to David Cameron

    Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
    Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

    You don't say!

    Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
    Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

    So what is Mubi?

    Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
    The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

    The hardest job in theatre?

    How to follow Kevin Spacey
    Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

    Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

    To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
    Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

    'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

    The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
    Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

    This human tragedy has been brewing for years

    EU states can't say they were not warned
    Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

    Women's sportswear

    From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
    Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

    Clinton's clothes

    Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders