Aids cases 'could be fewer than predicted'

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THE SPREAD of Aids among heterosexuals in England and Wales will be slower than predicted, the Public Health Laboratory Service said yesterday.

Figures to be published later this month will show that the projected number of cases has fallen by two-thirds in two years, as data from anonymous blood screening of the population has become available.

Dr Ahilya Noone, of the service, said there will be an estimated 1,000 heterosexual Aids cases by 1997. An earlier report predicted 3,000 cases.

Dr Noone told the 9th International Aids Conference in Berlin that anonymous HIV screening of blood samples, which began in 1990, had enabled the figures to be revised downwards.

The service's full report, which is being compiled by Nicholas Day, Professor of Public Health at Cambridge University, will be published shortly. Dr Noone said that anonymous testing had been well accepted by the public, with an objection rate of only 1 per cent.

Now 800,000 people are screened annually. Blood samples are collected from 85 centres in London and other metropolitan cities, from ante-natal clinics, hospitals, sexually transmitted disease clinics, drug user centres and abortion clinics.

Martin Donoghoe, of the Centre for Research on Drugs and Health Behaviour at London University, said there was 'considerable' potential for heterosexual transmission of HIV among intravenous drug users and their partners. A study of more than 500 IDUs in London showed that almost half of the heterosexual users had sex regularly with non-users.