7,000 Britons diagnosed with HIV in 2005

More than 7,700 people were diagnosed with HIV in Britain last year, up from around 7,200 in 2004 and the highest figure since records began, according to official estimates published Thursday. The Health Protection Agency, or HPA, said that 5,560 new HIV diagnoses had been reported so far for 2005, but the final figure for the year is expected to exceed 7,700 when late reports are collated.

The agency said that the rise in new diagnoses was mainly due to the continued increase in cases among men who have homosexual sex. There are currently 1,712 new diagnoses from men having sex with men reported for 2005, but this is predicted to rise to around 2,400 when all reports are in, the agency said.

"Sex between men remains the group in the UK at highest risk of acquiring HIV with evidence that transmission is continuing at a substantial rate," said Dr. Valerie Delpech of the HPA. Nick Partridge, chief executive of the Terrence Higgins Trust, which works with those who have HIV, said more people were diagnosed with HIV in 2005 "than in any year since the epidemic began."

The new figures showed that the number of new HIV diagnoses in heterosexuals is expected to remain high but relatively stable, with most cases acquired outside of Britain.

New HIV diagnoses in heterosexual men and women are expected to reach around 4,400 for 2005, compared with the 4,347 reported in 2004. Diagnoses in injecting drug users are expected to increase to 182, compared with 131 in 2004, the agency said. There are now more than 58,000 people living with HIV in Britain, with an estimated 20,000 of those remaining undiagnosed, reports the AP. I.L.