YOUNG people in Hynd-burn are being warned of the dangers of unprotected sex as a new report reveals that the number of Aids cases in the region is continuing to rise.
A Health Protection Age-ncy report published to mark World Aids Day revealed that during 2002, 617 new HIV and Aids cases were reported in the North West region - the highest number of new cases in a single year since regional monitoring began eight years ago.
In 2001 there were just 14 cases in Hyndburn and the Ribble Valley but figures for 2002 list 22 cases in the area.
Health experts said that they are seeing evidence of young people putting themselves at risk and have issued a stark warning urging people to practise safe sex.
Professor Dr John Ashton, North West Regional Director of Public Health, said: "Sex is one of the great joys of life and no-one wants to put a dampener on people having fun but to have unprotected sex with someone you have just met, perhaps in a nightclub or on a foreign holiday, is a form of Russian Roulette.
"HIV and Aids were not a phenomenon of the 1980s. The figures are continuing to rise and people really need to protect themselves."
Professor Qutub Syed, the Health Protection Agency's North West Regional Director, said that all sexually transmitted diseases were on the increase and the trend would only be reversed through "greater awareness and understanding of the risks and by people taking responsibility for their actions."
Both point out that the virus is not exclusive to drug users or homosexuals. In fact, 12 of Hyndburn's 22 cases are as a result of heterosexual sex.
Blackburn's Brook Advis-ory Centre held an Aids Awareness event at Accring-ton and Rossendale College as part of World Aids Day, where it gave youngsters at the college information about safe sex.
Sexual health worker Sara Jameson said: "We had a stand and gave young people information about the current situation of Aids worldwide and in the UK.
"We are just making sure that young people are aware that it has not gone away, that it is still there and it still affects millions of people worldwide.
"We want to make sure that people know how to protect themselves and were talking about sexual health and the use of condoms."