Aids to double in 10 years

Click to follow
AIDS WAS described yesterday as the "epidemic that won't go away" in an official report by MPs that predicts a doubling in the number of cases in the next 10 years.

Despite the dangers, widespread prejudice is preventing sufferers from coming forward and being tested, with dreadful consequences for unborn children, said the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Aids. Earlier screening, particularly for pregnant women, is needed as part of an overall national strategy to help tackle the disease, said the report.

The UK has a high rate of undiagnosed HIV-positive women giving birth and reported cases of HIV transmission from mother to child accounted for 3 per cent of all cases in 1997,according to the National Aids Trust. There are 25,000 HIV sufferers in the UK - 7,000 undiagnosed, said the trust.

Neil Gerrard, the chairman of the parliamentary group, said: "Antenatal testing is patchy and doesn't detect as many cases of HIV as there are. We can't force women to have tests; what we are saying is that they should be offered in a kind of voluntary, confidential way. I've seen women who've given birth to HIV babies unaware until the child has been born and it's very distressing."

Awareness campaigns aimed at removing the stigma of the disease should be part of a new national framework, the MPs' report said.

Health authorities are also being urged to give equal quality of service throughout the country to Aids sufferers and accord the disease the same priority as cancer.

GPs should also be encouraged to be extra vigilant about the disease, particularly in more remote areas of the UK.

"There is a huge disparity of sufferers and the treatment they receive throughout England Scotland and Wales," said Mr Gerrard. Urgent help is also needed for heterosexual HIV and Aids sufferers, who often feel isolated.