Eight children in Ireland diagnosed with HIV last year

Eight children in Ireland were diagnosed with the HIV infection last year, new figures revealed today.

The parents of another 25 newborns were awaiting tests to find out if their newborn babies were infected with the disease.

The figures, released by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC), showed 117 babies were born to mothers with the virus.

Just one of those passed HIV onto an infant, however.

Of the eight newly diagnosed children, six previously contracted the virus from its mother, one received a blood transfusion in Africa, and the cause was unknown.

The HPSC study revealed 4,781 people in Ireland were infected with HIV by the end of 2007 - with 362 of those newly diagnosed during the year.

Experts said the 7.4% increase suggests people or either taking more risks or those at risk are seeking testing, counselling and treatment.

Meanwhile, researchers said 957 Aids cases were reported between 1983 and 2007, of which 405 people had died.

Concerns were raised that 28 patients were diagnosed with Aids the same time as HIV.

"These patients would not have had the opportunity to benefit from treatment prior to Aids diagnosis," said a HPSC researcher.

"This highlights the importance of HIV testing services in all the appropriate settings, as diagnosis at an early stage in the course of HIV infection facilitates early intervention and treatment."

Of the newly diagnosed HIV cases, some 146 patients were heterosexual, while homosexual men accounted for 75, and 54 were drug users.

Although the gender of 23 cases were unknown, 209 were male and 130 were female with 29 of those pregnant.

The mean age at HIV diagnosis was 32.5 years.

Of the 251 cases where geographic origin was known, 107 were born in Ireland, 96 were born in sub-Saharan Africa and 48 were born in other regions.

Elsewhere, more than 180 were resident in the eastern region (Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow), 52 living in the rest of the country, and the home of more than a third was unknown.

The HPSC warned the figures should be interpreted with caution as HIV cases are reported on a voluntary anonymous system and some data left unanswered.

Mary O'Shea, of the Dublin Aids Alliance, said more resources need to be put in to education and the prevention of HIV and Aids.

"There isn't enough emphasis on sexual health," she said.

"These can be prevented and when diagnosed early can be treated.

"It is important that we have a wider availability of services and better reporting mechanisms.

"We are a multi-cultural society and we have to make sure we have services in place to cater for everybody.

"Our emphasis is very much in trying to get people in to our offices and to reach those at risk."

Meanwhile, of the 37 deaths among Aids cases between 2002 and 2007, the cause of death was reported as AIDS in 31 cases (83.8%), HIV/Aids related in three cases (8.1%), non-Aids in two cases (5.4%) and unknown in one case (2.7%).

The HPSC said Aids cases have been under and late reported.

"The magnitude of the problem of missing data, and the fact that this is increasing, once again highlights the need for a statutory notification system for HIV infection in Ireland," added a HPSC researcher.

"It is important to note that the figures presented here do not represent the numbers of people infected with HIV in Ireland but rather provide information on the number of newly confirmed diagnoses in a given time period.

"The number of newly diagnosed cases reported is dependent on patterns of testing and reporting."

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