COMMUNICATIONS NEWS: WORLD AIDS DAY - HIV groups base work around World Aids Day

World Aids Day and new research revealing a 20 per cent increase in the number of people in Britain infected by the HIV virus have sparked a flurry of campaigns to tackle the global epidemic.

Christian Aid is calling on the Government to use its influence with the US administration to ask it to drop its abstinence-only criteria for HIV funding that rejects sex education and condoms as a way of tackling the Aids epidemic in the developing world.

It says the US policy of excluding pro-abortion groups has had a devastating effect on some organisations working in family planning and HIV. As a result of this policy the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) recently lost $8m (£5m) in funding, which the charity claims is mainly used to supply contraceptives to developing countries crippled by the virus.

But the IPPF says it will continue to promote family planning as an effective means to tackle the spread of HIV. It is developing a Global Rights Index, a set of best-practice guidelines, to evaluate how the rights of people living with Aids are being protected and upheld by different governments across the world.

The Terrence Higgins Trust has used the new UK HIV figures to warn that a major crisis is enveloping British sexual health services. Figures released last week by the Health Protection Agency showed that there were 5,711 infections in the year to September 2002, a 20 per cent rise on the previous year.

The charity has called for the Government to make testing for HIV infection easier.

Other HIV/Aids charities have used the new figures to voice their support for the Government's decision to provide £15m in additional funding to upgrade medical services.

"The increased funding seems to herald a new priority for HIV by the Government, which is an extremely welcome development," said Derek Bodell, chief executive of the National Aids Trust.

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