Highest number of new HIV cases since 1985 There were 3,425 new cases of HIV last year according to the Public Health Laboratory Service - a rise of 14 per cent compared with 1999 and the highest number of newly diagnosed cases in one year since testing became widely available in 1985.For the second year the greatest number of new infections (47 per cent) were acquired through heterosexual intercourse rather than sex between men (37 per cent).Dr Barry Evans from the PHLS Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre said: 'Many of those being diagnosed are people who were infected some years ago, but are only now coming forward for testing.This is good news, because once people are diagnosed they can seek treatment.'

Ethnic minority users: service providers'audit tool The Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health has launched an audit tool aimed at allowing service providers to assess their effectiveness in meeting the needs of ethnic minority users.The tool places emphasis on the experiences of people who provide and use the services and includes two interview schedules, one for clients and one for staff.The SCMH hopes the tool will allow units to identify their strengths and weaknesses and help improve practice.

Cultural Sensitivity Audit Tool for Mental Health Services (£25 plus£2.50 p&p). www. scmh. org. uk Ten-year high for private health insurance The number of people in the UK with private health insurance rose by more than 5 per cent last year to almost 6.9 million, according to market analysts, Laing and Buisson - the highest annual growth for a decade.Combined with those people who obtain medical care benefits through schemes offered by employers, the company estimates that 12.6 per cent of the population has private health cover.Income for private health insurers increased even more sharply, rising by 10.7 per cent last year to almost£2.5bn.

Tighter controls on anti-smoking drug The Committee on Safety of Medicines has demanded tighter controls on the prescribing of smoking cessation drug Zyban after receiving over 5,000 yellow card reports, including 126 of seizures, since it was licensed a year ago.The CSM recommends increasing the dose to twice daily from once after seven days rather than after four and using caution because of the risk of interaction with other medication.The drug has been prescribed to 419,000 people and pressure group ASH insists people should not be put off using it, saying it doubles the chance of smokers being able to quit.

Anti-violence guidance for general practice staff The Health Development Agency has published guidance on protecting general practice staff from the threat of violence.Prepared by the Health Service Advisory Committee, it includes risk assessments and advice covering issues such as working patterns, security and the physical environment.The guidance chimes with Labour's pre-election commitment to a crackdown on those who use violence against public sector workers, with tough penalties for anyone convicted.

Violence and Aggression in General Practice. HDA, 020-7413 1873.

NHS to take lead in regeneration strategies Health authorities will have 'a key co-ordinating role'in local strategic partnerships, the government said in a letter accompanying guidance issued before the election.The NHS 'should look to play a prominent role'in regeneration partnerships 'as the largest employer, investor and trainer'in many areas.Partnerships should 'look at ways in which the NHS economy can support local regeneration and employment strategies'.It added that 'there is potential'for health action zones to be integrated with the new partnerships.