Heterosexual Aids will peak in 40 years

THE Aids epidemic among heterosexuals in the UK will not reach its peak for 40 years, experts have predicted. The increase is then likely to settle at rates higher than today's.

In the week in which some commentators declared that the Aids crisis in the UK was over, experts meeting in London warned against this conclusion.

Professor Roy Anderson, of Imperial College, London, told European MPs this weekend that without a dramatic breakthrough in the search for a vaccine or cure, or changes in sexual behaviour, a 'double-wave' pattern of infection was likely.

Calculations of these waves show the UK epidemic now approaching its first peak, at about 20 years into the history of the disease. It is then likely to fall in the next 10 or 15 years, but will rise again, settling at a higher level.

Professor Anderson, of the college's department of parasite epidemiology, was speaking at the first conference organised by the British All Party Parliamentary Group on Aids, held in London on Friday and yesterday. It aims to co-ordinate national public health education programmes in the EC countries and give parliamentarians an update on the likely progress of Aids in Europe.

Professor Anderson said the impact of Aids on heterosexuals would not become apparent for many years. 'Although the risk of infection for each sexual act remains extremely small, you have to look at many sexual acts over long periods of time and that a person with HIV infection is potentially infectious for nine to ten years. Heterosexual infection is certainly still on the way up.'

Aids would become endemic and a greater problem in high-risk groups, such as those who change their sexual partners or share drug needles frequently, and who do not practise safe sex. 'Multiple peaks in the incidence of Aids may appear perhaps separated by many years, as HIV infection passes from high- via medium- to low-risk groups,' he said.

There have been 7,195 cases of Aids in the UK since counting began in 1982; 62 per cent of the victims have died. Of these cases, 491 are women, and 1,401 men and women are believed to be heterosexual. About 150 new cases are reported each month, a figure that appears to have stabilised.

The number of people with HIV who have volunteered for testing, but have not yet progressed to Aids, is 19,500. Charts provided by researchers in the Netherlands, where Aids has followed similar patterns to the UK, show that the epidemic has peaked in high-risk groups. In these it will fall to about half the current rates of infection in 10 years' time. Among heterosexuals in low-risk groups, the rates will rise very slowly, reaching the settled high-risk levels perhaps 20 years later.

It is this which has led to the claims that Aids is no longer a danger. But Jonathan Mann, professor of epidemiology and director of the Harvard School of Public Health, said that denial had always been a characteristic of the epidemic around the world.

'The claims that it did not exist in heterosexuals was one of most truly bizarre events in public health this century,' he said. 'The whole history of Aids has seen a cycle of exaggeration and denial. People have always wanted to take extreme views. If you ask people to choose between believing that there is a big problem or no problem, we know which way they will to go.'

Professor Mann, former director of the World Health Organisation Aids programme, said he understood the difficulties that policymakers and health planners now faced. 'We have to have a lot of sympathy for politicians over this question of heterosexual transmission. What is clear is that much is still unknown about how far and how fast it will spread. We might not have these answers for 20 years. We are therefore asking politicians to make decisons today that in reality they will not have to deal with in the future.

'We can only emphasise that there will be more infection, that there is risk, and that we have a duty to protect society.'

Part of the current debate in Britain has focused on the early projections of the scale of Aids infection. The first, made before 1988, were one-and-a-half times too high. As a result Aids activitists have been accused of scaremongering. However, by 1990 projections had been adjusted downwards and are close to actual numbers today.

Professor Anderson, who was responsible for the first and subsequent projections, said: 'People may wonder why such major concern is given to a disease that kills fewer people than cancer or smoking-related illnesses or car accidents.

'The first reason is its lethality. Once diagnosed, life expectancy is about 18 months. The second is that this is a new disease and very silent one. It stays in the body for a long period.'

While Professor Anderson confirmed that the numbers of infected heterosexuals was still small, he said that the spread of Aids was very slow in low-risk groups. There were too many unknown aspects of heterosexual transmission for it to be safe for people to drop their guard, he said.

While 'seed' cases among heterosexuals in Europe may have been infected abroad, they had the potential to cause the next level of infection. In France, where the heterosexual spread in greater than in Britain, this was already emerging.

The conference also heard warnings of 'sex tourism' moving from countries such as Thailand to much closer to home. Dr Johannes Hallauer of the WHO Global Aids Programme said that sex on offer in Moscow, Prague and Budapest was providing a new threat, from prostitutes with Aids spreading the disease from 'inner' Europe to the West.

There is now confidence among British Aids experts that the strong public health messages of the mid-Eighties were effective in helping to change behaviour. The rates of infection did not fulfil the blackest predictions.

But there are now concerns that schoolchildren believe that the Aids risk is all over. Peter Glover of Acet (Aids Concern, Education and Training), an independent group that offers Aids education in schools, said that children were getting these messages.

'Aids will not have the major impact in Britain that it is having overseas, but it is absurd to believe it will leave Britain unaffected,' he said. 'The threat to the heterosexual community is a real one. We must not lose sight of the fact that the major impact of Aids, everywhere, still lies ahead.'

(Graph omitted)

Arts & Entertainment
Shaun Evans as Endeavour interviews a prisoner as he tries to get to the bottom of a police cover up
tvReview: Second series comes to close with startling tale of police corruption and child abuse
Arts & Entertainment
A stranger calls: Martin Freeman in ‘Fargo’
Review: New 10-part series brims with characters and stories

Arts & Entertainment
Schwarzenegger winning Mr. Universe 1969
arts + entsCan you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
Sport
Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez celebrate during Liverpool's game with Norwich
football Another hurdle is out of the way for Brendan Rodgers' side
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
The star of the sitcom ‘Miranda’ is hugely popular with mainstream audiences
TVMiranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
News
Portrait of Queen Elizabeth-II by David Bailey which has been released to mark her 88th birthday
peoplePortrait released to mark monarch's 88th birthday
Life & Style
The writer, Gerda Saunders, with her mother, who also suffered with dementia before her death
healthGerda Saunders on the most formidable effect of her dementia
Sport
Manchester United manager David Moyes looks on during his side's defeat to Everton
footballBaines and Mirallas score against United as Everton keep alive hopes of a top-four finish
Sport
Tour de France 2014Sir Rodney Walker on organising the UK stages of this year’s race
Arts & Entertainment
Jessica Brown Findlay as Mary Yellan in ‘Jamaica Inn’
TVJessica Brown Findlay on playing the spirited heroine of Jamaica Inn
News
YouTube clocks up more than a billion users a month
mediaEuropean rival Dailymotion certainly thinks so
Arts & Entertainment
The original design with Charles' face clearly visible, which is on display around the capital
arts + ents The ad shows Prince Charles attired for his coronation in a crown and fur mantle with his mouth covered by a criss-cross of white duct tape
Arts & Entertainment
‘Self-Portrait Worshipping Christ’ (c943-57) by St Dunstan
books How British artists perfected the art of the self-portrait
Sport
Luis Suarez celebrates after scoring in Liverpool's 3-2 win over Norwich
Football Vine shows Suarez writhing in pain before launching counter attack
News
People White House officials refuse to make comment on 275,000 signatures that want Justin Bieber's US visa revoked
News
Sir Cliff Richard is to release his hundredth album at age 72
PEOPLE
Sport
Lukas Podolski celebrates one of his two goals in Arsenal's win over Hull
football
Arts & Entertainment
Quentin Tarantino, director
film
News
The speeding train nearly hit this US politican during a lecture on rail safety
news As the saying goes, you have to practice what you preach
Sport
Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain (front) drives ahead of Red Bull Formula One driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia during the Chinese F1 Grand Prix at the Shanghai International circuit
sport
Arts & Entertainment
Billie Jean King, who won the women’s Wimbledon title in 1967, when the first colour pictures were broadcast
tv
News
Snow has no plans to step back or reduce his workload
mediaIt's 25 years since Jon Snow first presented Channel 4 News, and his drive shows no sign of diminishing
Life & Style
food + drinkWhat’s not to like?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Geography Teacher

£130 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Ilford: Secondary Geography Teacher Lo...

Do you want to work in Education?

£55 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Are you a dynamic and energeti...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: SEN TAs, LSAs and Support Workers needed...

Private Client Senior Manager - Sheffield

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Pro-Recruitment Group: The Sheffield office of this...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit