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HIV on Rise With Heterosexuals

Everyone is at risk of contracting HIV but present figures might suggest that certain groups think they are exempt from numbers at risk of contracting the infection. Current statistics show that more than half of all new HIV diagnoses are reported among the heterosexual population. It is interesting that the number of heterosexuals contracting the infection has been slowly but surely on the rise now for years despite the growing awareness surrounding the infection and the AIDS virus over the last thirty odd years. The fact that over 50% of all new cases are contracted by heterosexuals is intriguing and certainly suggests to me that the heterosexual population feel that they are not vulnerable to infection, and that rather, it is still widely thought that HIV is an infection contracted by men who have sex with men (MSM) and intravenous drug users, almost exclusively. Frankly, this assumption is archaic and is doing a lot of damage. The actual MSM statistics for HIV can be read on the National AIDS Trust website.


It is important to avoid sounding alarmist here as this does not indicate that infections are contracted inside the UK and are very likely to have occurred outside the country but been diagnosed or treated in the UK. It is estimated that a high percentage of those infected in the UK were infected by a partner who was infected outside of the country but, allocating a country to an infection contracted outside the UK is difficult and methods of estimation are certainly not definitive. Whether the number of HIV diagnoses in the UK is representative of the rate of infection within the country or not, the number of heterosexuals living in the UK with HIV is high and this means the risk of contracting it is high. Everyone is susceptible to this incurable infection which, if left untreated, can lead to AIDS, serious health problems, and ultimately, death. 


2012 figures indicate that 98,400 people in the UK were living with HIV and, of this group, 22% did not even know they had been infected. Of course, abstaining from sex or using condoms, and having regular sexual health screens, are the only way to protect against this very catchable, yet treatable, infection but understanding how easily HIV is contracted is so important. The most common ways of contracting the infection is via sexual contact through: heterosexual sex or sex between men: intravenous drug use: mother to child via birth, and contaminated blood products. Modern antiretroviral medication and other treatments for the infection mean that people with HIV can live longer and fuller lives like never before, and even enjoy sexual relationships with those who are not infected. A HIV infection no longer means death or reclusion but it is certainly a life-long commitment in terms of maintaining the immune system and taking medication for the remainder of life. Having HIV means that susceptibility to other sexually transmitted infections and other illnesses increases dramatically and in order to maintain control of the infection, other such illnesses are best avoided. You can find more about post diagnosis life expectancy here.


This last ten years, 2,000 deaths caused by the AIDS virus in the UK were due to late diagnoses. These late diagnoses are most prevalent among heterosexuals with 65% of men and 57% of women diagnosed long after they contracted the infection. The reason there were fewer MSM diagnosed late is due to the fact that more testing has been carried out among the MSM group, they being at greater risk of infection. This is certainly an argument for wider HIV testing, as reported on the NHS Choices website here. The heterosexual population need to take responsibility individually for their sexual health and realise that HIV is not an infection simply and exclusively associated with homosexuality and drug use. These groups might be very much at risk but heterosexuals are in no way invulnerable to it. There are a lot of myths about HIV. Please visit this sexual health website for further information on those HIV myths and to find out how easy it is to get tested these days.