A recent article released by the Irish Times on October 20th, 2016 reveals the record number of 934 HIV patients residing in Northern Ireland. Just this past year, 81 men and 22 women were diagnosed with HIV, which leads to a total amount of patients that is triple the amount of HIV infected patients in 2006. In terms of the identification of exposure, 58% of the HIV infected patients involved sex between men and 38% of patients involved heterosexual contact.
Drug use was not determined to be one of main routes of transmission because less than 1% of patients were exposed to HIV via intravenous drug use. Jacquie Richardson, the chief executive of the Northern Ireland HIV charity Positive Life, states that the first step to tackling HIV will be to educate the public on safe sex measures and campaigns to address the social stigmas concerning HIV/AIDS. There are a multitude of sexual health resources available in the Northern Ireland public health system, and many believe that these resources are not being put to effective use because a implementation strategy has not yet been devised. Other sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhea and syphilis are also on the rise, increasing the need for more effective sexual health education.
A certain proportion of the HIV infected population in Northern Ireland also include children. Since 1985 six children (under the age of 17) were diagnosed with HIV, and the number continues to rise. 93% of current HIV positive patients in Northern Ireland are receiving antiretroviral drug therapy while many have moved out of the country to seek healthcare benefits.
The focus of addressing this problem has shifted to preventative measures in order to ensure that the number of HIV patients do not continue to rise in Northern Ireland. With the cooperation between public health officials and social organizations, a new education system ought to be implemented as soon as possible.
Check out the article here: http://www.irishtimes.com/news/health/record-number-living-with-hiv-in-northern-ireland-1.2835830
~Michelle Bach (Humans and Viruses 2016-2017)