HIV cases increase by 25 per cent in a year

A surge in new cases of HIV has seen numbers up 25 per cent on last year, official figures show today.

By the end of September 2,945 new diagnoses had been reported, compared with 2,354 in the same period of 2001, the the Public Health Laboratory Service says.

The release of the figures to mark World Aids Day tomorrow coincides with the launch of a £4m government campaign to promote safer sex and curb the rise in sexually transmitted diseases.

The number of people attending genito-urinary clinics doubled between 1991 and 2001 and new diagnoses of sexually transmitted infections rose 61 per cent. Cases of gonorrhoea were up 35 per cent, chlamydia more than doubled, and cases of syphilis more than tripled.

Hazel Blears, the Public Health minister, said yesterday: "These are extremely worrying figures. Condom use is actually going up, yet sexually transmitted infections are also going up. Public health experts say that people are having more sexual partners and more concurrent sexual partners. So there is a change in sexual behaviour."

The theme of the £4m campaign, aimed at the 18-30 age group, is: "Don't play the sex lottery – use a condom." It is timed for the Christmas party season, and will include advertisements on beer mats and scratchcards as well as in more conventional media such as the men's magazine FHM.

Ms Blears said: "It is bold, brash, exciting and a bit risqué because we need to engage these young adults. We have tested it on voluntary organisations and youth workers and it is doing exactly what we want it to do." It was the first campaign aimed at adults for more than a decade, since the Aids campaigns of the late 1980s and early 1990s, Ms Blears said.

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