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Prevention messages must be reinforced to improve our sexual health: Poots

Health Minister, Edwin Poots, today attended the launch of Positive Life’s new Strategic Plan ‘Building a Positive Future’, at the Long Gallery, Stormont.
Wednesday, 13 February 2013

The new strategy will aim to provide support services, train, educate and raise awareness and lobby to affect positive change for people living with and affected by HIV.

Speaking at the launch Minister Poots said: “I am concerned at the high numbers of new sexually transmitted infections and the growing number of new diagnoses of HIV amongst our population.

“It is clear from the statistics that more and more people are not hearing or choosing to disregard the prevention message and are engaging in risky behaviours. The prevention messages must be reinforced and delivered more directly to those engaging in risky behaviour.”

Sexually transmitted infections (STI) remain among the most important causes of illness due to infectious disease across all age groups but especially in young people. In 2011 surveillance data shows that of the 7,661 new STI diagnoses 55% occurred in young people under the age of 25. The data also showed an increase in the number of new HIV diagnoses, 82 new cases were reported.

The Minister continued: “A new diagnosis of HIV is still a traumatic and life changing experience which people can struggle to cope with. We must ensure that everyone, particularly young people, are aware of the facts about HIV and AIDS, so that they can minimise the risk of becoming infected with the virus.”

The Minister paid tribute to Positive Life for their ongoing support to those affected by HIV/AIDS and towards helping to reduce the further spread of the virus in Northern Ireland.

Notes to editors:

1. The number of new STI diagnoses in Northern Ireland in 2011 was 7,661, 55% of which occurred in young people under the age of 25. (7850 in 2010; between 2000 and 2011 new STI diagnoses increased by 28%).

2. There were 82 new diagnoses of HIV reported in 2011 compared to 80 new diagnoses in 2010, with men who have sex with men accounting for the majority (59%) of these new diagnoses.

3. Positive Life provides support services, information and advice for people newly diagnosed or living with HIV or AIDS, including a free confidential helpline 0800 134 437.

4. Media queries about this press release please contact DHSSPS Press Office on 028 9052 0567 or out of office hours contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 076 9971 5440 and your call will be returned.