80 Percent Rise in HIV-Positive Gays

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CBNNews.com - JERUSALEM, Israel - Israel's Health Ministry was presented with new data this week concerning the dramatic rise in the number of HIV-positive homosexuals in Israel.

According to the report, there has been an 80 percent increase in the number of homosexuals testing positive for HIV.

Three hundred sixty people were diagnosed HIV-positive in Israel last year, and about 140 of these were homosexual men. By contrast, only 77 gay men were diagnosed with the virus in 2006, Health Ministry records reveal.

Numbers Expected to Rise

The Israel AIDS Task Force warns that the numbers are expected to rise and urges action before an epidemic occurs.

"This is a vital matter, which requires both the Health Ministry and the gay community's attention," Dr. Gideon Hirsch, CEO of the Israel AIDS Task Force told Ynet News Tuesday.

The data suggests that homosexuals now represent one-third of the total number of HIV-positive persons living in Israel and that many of those infected contracted the virus before the age 25. Moreover, those with the virus continue to have unprotected sex.

Similar Number of Undiagnosed Cases

The Task Force concludes that by the end of 2007, there were about 5,300 persons diagnosed with the virus living in Israel. The Task Force also believes that there is a similar number of undiagnosed cases.

It is estimated that 95 percent of those diagnosed as HIV-positive belong to high-risk groups, such as gay men and drug users. And in many cases, those with the virus were only tested after it progressed into AIDS, a later stage of HIV. This late diagnosis and the fact that many of these people continue to have unprotected sex, are blamed for the spreading of the HIV virus.

"Knowingly or intentionally spreading the virus is a criminal offence," Hirsch added. "We're not going to have an AIDS police, but we have to stop people from having unprotected sex. Make no mistake -- these numbers will only continue to rise in the next few years," Hirsch said.

7,000+ People Infected Daily Worldwide

Meanwhile, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent published its annual disasters report yesterday. The report warns that the AIDS crisis could become a global disaster as more than 7,000 people are infected with HIV daily around the world. An estimated 33 million people have the virus, which has killed 25 million worldwide.

The Task Force held a conference yesterday for infected persons, about 100 of whom attended. The conference was held the same day as the Gay Pride Parade took place in Jerusalem.

Sources: Ynet News, Haaretz

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