Byline: By Craig Thompson
Rates of HIV are soaring among North East heterosexual men and women.
The infection, which can lead to the lethal condition Aids, has risen sharply in the heterosexual community from 265 cases in 2003, to 339 last year.
The majority of these infections were acquired abroad, prompting doctors to warn about the dangers of sexual promiscuity when on holiday.
Figures from the Health Protection Agency reveal there were 650 people in the region being treated for the HIV last year, up from 542 in 2003.
The proportion of infections acquired by gay or bisexual men in the region fell from 41% to 38%.
But, despite the latest figures, the region still has the lowest number of HIV cases in the country.
Rates of sexually transmitted diseases continue to rise in the region, with new diagnoses of these infections increasing from 21,202 in 2003, to 23,251 last year.
Earlier this year, the Chronicle revealed how North East teens as young as 14 were being tested for sexually-transmitted infections.
Dr John Woodhouse, interim director of the Health Protection Agency in the North East, said: "The increase in newly-diagnosed STIs is the result of a combination of factors, including more people coming forward for testing and improved screening. …