Latest figures reveal Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and HIV in Somerset are on the increase – and Somerset County Council is reminding everyone this World Aids Day (1 December) that ‘age is no protection’.
Somerset has seen an increase year on year in the number of people being diagnosed with HIV. The County does not have high numbers of people living with the condition, but 20 new diagnoses were made last year.
Nationally, and in Somerset, HIV diagnosis rates in heterosexual people aged over 50 are increasing. Over 50s now account for 1 in 6 new cases of HIV in the UK, and of those 61% are being diagnosed late, which means they have had HIV for some time, but didn’t know it. Over 57% of new HIV diagnoses in Somerset are late.
STIs are also seeing an increase. Young people aged 15-24 are more likely to be affected, but the largest proportional increase in gonorrhoea and chlamydia in England was in people aged 65 and older. Infections of syphilis have doubled in Somerset including amongst heterosexual people.
Trudi Grant, Director of Public Health at Somerset County Council said: “Anyone, whatever your age, can contract a sexually transmitted infection including HIV if you have unprotected sex (i.e. if you don’t use a condom). Having multiple sexual partners increases the risk of STIs being passed on quickly.
“Most people infected with HIV will experience a short, flu like illness that occurs two to six weeks after infection. The most common symptoms are a raised temperature, sore throat and body rash. Other symptoms can include tiredness, joint and muscle pain and swollen glands. Having these symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean you have HIV, but if you’ve had several of these symptoms and think you’ve been at risk of HIV infection within the past few weeks, you should get an HIV test. Late diagnosis of HIV can result in poorer health outcomes and a tenfold risk of dying prematurely.”
Whatever your age, think of the three Ts:
- Think – New partner, use a condom
- Test – Get tested, it’s safe and free
- Treat – Live well
Age UK have produced the short video “Risky Business” on HIV targeted at people aged 50 plus, you can find it at https://www.ageuk.org.uk/wiltshire/about-us/hiv-awareness/
Getting a test for HIV is now much easier and you can get a test through your GP or local sexual health clinic. Once on treatment, the virus can be suppressed and it becomes undetectable. As a result, it’s then untransmissible, so cannot be passed on to someone else. Google U=U for more information.
For more information on symptoms and how to get tested, check out www.swishservices.co.uk or phone 0300 124 5010.