Published: 05/08/2004, Volume II4, No. 5917 Page 8 9

Figures from the Health Protection Agency reveal that the NHS is struggling to cope with rising levels of HIV and sexually transmitted diseases.

More than 400,000 new cases are diagnosed in English genitourinary medicine clinics each year.

But across the UK, latest complete figures for 2002 revealed that clinics dealt with more than 1.5 million new episodes, compared with 708,538 in 1993. While rates of infection are rising, the agency concludes that more people are coming forward for testing. But it concludes that this rise in caseload has led to longer waiting times at GUM clinics, which it considers a 'cause for concern'.

The agency revealed that new cases of chlamydia rose by 9 per cent to 89,918 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in 2003.

Cases of syphilis increased by 28 per cent from 1,232 to 1,575 and the figure for genital warts was up 2 per cent to 70,883. But cases of gonorrhoea and genital herpes decreased by 2 per cent to 24,309 and 17,990 cases respectively.

And at the end of 2002 it found that 49,500 adults were living with HIV, of whom 22,600 were gay and bisexual men.

In the same year, a total of 5,542 new cases of HIV were diagnosed - almost double the number identified in 1997. Of these new cases, 3,152 were heterosexually acquired.