GLASGOW is in the grip of a HIV outbreak after the number of new cases through drug injection more than trebled in a year.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) usually sees about 10 cases of HIV through drug injection each year. But since the start of this year there have already been 36 cases identified.

Health workers are concerned about the spike and measures are in place to encourage people not to share needles and to use protection during sexual intercourse.

There is also a push to encourage people who might be at risk to get tested and seek treatment.

The health board usually sees about 115 new cases of HIV a year.

HIV - human immunodeficiency virus - attacks the immune system, and weakens the ability to fight infections and disease.

AIDS is the final stage of HIV infection. However, with early diagnosis and effective treatment, most people will not go on to develop AIDS.

Dr Catriona Milosevic, consultant in Public Health Medicine at NHSGGC, called the outbreak “unusual”.

She said in June there had been 17 cases of drug injecting-related HIV in the Greater Glasgow area.

She added: “We’re now up to 36. We normally have less than 10 cases in a year.

“We see normally over 100 cases of HIV in Greater Glasgow and Clyde in a year.

“But the majority of those cases are normally not related to injecting drug use, they’re normally related to heterosexual or homosexual transmission.

“So this is quite unusual in a setting where we have good injecting equipment.”

Health workers are trying to highlight the risks of needle sharing. Posters are up at needle exchange points in Glasgow.

Dr Milosevic said: “We’re reminding people of how HIV is spread.

“We’re reminding people to use fresh injecting equipment everytime they inject and condoms for sexual intercourse.

“There is injecting equipment available through pharmacies and centres. "They aren’t limited to what they can take.”

Dr Milosevic said health workers were trying to get sufferers into treatment to reduce the spread.

The health board is also planning to launch an anti-stigma drive to stamp out prejudice, discrimination and negative attitudes directed at people living with HIV and AIDS.

Dr Milosevic said the Greater Glasgow area is the only Scots health board currently seeing the rise in HIV cases.

She said: “There is an increase in HIV in a similar population in Dublin.

“Within Scotland we’re the only board that’s seeing this.

"The level of HIV injecting population across Scotland is quite low. That’s one of the reasons it’s quite unusual what we’re seeing in Greater Glasgow and Clyde.”

It is thought that the number of overall HIV cases will be higher at the end of the year because of this increase.

Patricia Tracey, of the Glasgow Drug Crisis Centre, said giving out foil to drug users to encourage them to smoke heroin rather than inject was one of the ways the city was trying to stop the spread of HIV.

She added: "We actively encourage people to get treatment after diagnosis. "We offer safer advice about injecting, about the risks of HIV."

Organisations including the Simon Community and the Waverley Care are working with people affected by HIV.

Grant Sugden, chief executive of Waverley Care, called the rise "extremely concerning".