New cases of HIV in South West up 25%
A charity has called for greater awareness of HIV after figures revealed the number of people in the region being diagnosed with the condition had increased by nearly 25 per cent in one year.
According to the Health Protection Agency (HPA) there were 4,133 people living with HIV in the South West in 2011.
The figures, released to coincide with England's first ever National HIV Testing Week, show there were 303 people diagnosed in the South West in 2011 – an increase of 24 per cent from 2010.
This brought the total number of people accessing HIV care in the region to 3,141, an increase of 5 per cent from 2010.
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There are now an estimated 100,000 people living with the condition in the UK, the highest number since the epidemic began.
Gay and bisexual men and African communities remain the two groups most affected, the statistics show.
However, the research indicates an increasing number of heterosexuals are contracting the virus.
Steve Jones, regional manager for the West at charity the Terrence Higgins Trust, said HIV was something everyone should be aware of.
"Thirty years on from the start of the epidemic, public understanding of HIV has dropped to a worrying level," he said.
"As a result, we are starting to see a significant increase in the number of heterosexuals contracting the virus in the UK.
"It is important that everyone, no matter their age or background, understands that nobody is immune from infection.
"We all have a responsibility to get our understanding of the virus up to a basic level, and know how to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe."