The ArgusA hidden epidemic: The men who are straight, over 50 - and HIV positive (From The Argus)

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A hidden epidemic: The men who are straight, over 50 - and HIV positive

The Argus: A hidden epidemic: The men who are straight, over 50 - and HIV positive A hidden epidemic: The men who are straight, over 50 - and HIV positive

Health experts have reported a sudden surge in straight middle-aged men contracting HIV. Bill Gardner lifts the lid on a hidden epidemic sweeping Brighton and Hove.


When the grim spectre of Aids first reared its head in the 1980s, the killer virus was soon dubbed by some as the ‘gay plague’.

But thirty years later, for the first time ever, more than half of new cases in Brighton and Hove are being caught through heterosexual sex.

And rather than affecting only promiscuous young people, a sudden surge of sexually active over-50s are being declared HIV positive.

In the past few years, the number of new cases in the city has been steadily rising, with almost 2,000 people treated last year compared to 758 in 2001.

And this year, for the first time, 70% of new cases were caught through heterosexual sex with 30% involving over-50s, mainly men.

Now, health experts are urging both gay and straight people of all ages to visit free clinics across the city to be screened for HIV.

Caroline Lovett, head of clinical services at AIDS charity Sussex Beacon, said many heterosexual older men had no idea they were so at risk.

She said: “There’s still a perception that this is only a gay issue.

“If you have got a heterosexual man in his 50s then contracting HIV may not be on his radar. Most don’t even consider they might be in danger.”

Mrs Lovett said many of the older sufferers, which included many women, had often been through long marriages before starting new relationships in middle age.

Contraception

For them, condoms were for contraception, not for protection against sexually transmitted diseases.

She said: “People that age are not thinking about contraception. That’s why many are now contracting HIV because they think it’s OK not to take precautions.”

Brighton and Hove has traditionally been a hotspot for AIDS due to its high gay population.

In 2009, a memorial was built in New Steine Gardens to remember the scores of sufferers who have died from the disease.

Andy, a straight man in his late 40s from Brighton, discovered he had HIV five years ago.

He said many heterosexual people had “no idea” about the dangers of having unprotected sex.

He said: “I was in complete denial until I went for a blood test. You don’t ever think it might happen to you.

“But I soon found out HIV doesn’t discriminate - and that moment changed my life forever.”

Later, Andy developed AIDS-related meningitis and had to undergo life-saving brain surgery.

The Argus: In 2009, a memorial was built in Brighton's New Steine Gardens to remember those who have died from AIDS.

He urged straight people to practice safe sex to stop the virus spreading further.

He said: “Straight people need to be aware of the dangers. To be honest, I think the gay community are far more up to speed with it.

Disappeared

“They realise that if they have unprotected sex they are taking their lives in their hands.”

New HIV treatments have caused a steady drop in the yearly death toll – but experts warned this meant the disease was no longer seen as an automatic death sentence.

They said this meant many people, including in the gay community, now felt safer having unprotected sex.

Ross Boseley, health promotion coordinator at AIDS charity Terrence Higgins Trust, said the disease had “totally disappeared” from the public eye in recent years.

He said: “People just don’t have AIDS at the forefront of their minds any more. There’s a real lack of awareness.

“But the fact is the number of cases is going up. It’s not just about gay men, it’s about everybody.

“The generation that were around when AIDS first came out were told that it was the gay plague. They saw the tombstone ads and thought this was something that would never affect them.

“But many are now realising their mistake – and often too late.”

Even though attitudes toward AIDS have softened over the last few years, many charities warned continued stigma around the disease meant many people were slow to come forward for screening.

According to the Terrence Higgins Trust, this year in Brighton and Hove one sufferer was refused a medical procedure while another’s employers made it “impossible” for them to do their job.

In 2009 a national study reported that more than a third of people with HIV had experienced discrimination in the previous year.

John Percy is believed to be one of Britain’s longest surviving HIV sufferers, having lived with the virus since 1981.

He was forced to move away from Brighton after being beaten up in a random attack outside a nightclub.

He said: “I would actually say stigma against people with HIV is increasing.

“Brighton is terrible for it – that’s why I had to leave. I had so much grief from other gay men.

“What many people don’t realise is the stigma of sufferers within the gay community.”

Ross Boseley, a health promotion coordinator at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “Many of our clients talk about difficulties with new partners and at work.

“Things may be getting better but there’s a lot of work still to be done so people can feel completely comfortable coming forward.”

The trust is calling on people across the city to sign up for its anti-stigma campaign Stand Up, Stand Out.

To get involved locally, call the trust on 01273 764200 or email info.brighton@tht.org.uk.

An informal training session on HIV will take place at THT on Ship Street, Brighton, between 1-2pm on Thursday November 29. For advice call 01273 764200.

HIV testing is offered in several settings across the city, including the Claude Nicol Centre at the Sussex County Hospital.

More information can be found at www.brightonsexualhealth.com/health_promotion.
 

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Comments (18)

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3:11pm Fri 9 Nov 12

Jimmy Stewart's Imaginary Rabbit says...

Blimey, I'm over 50, and without wishing to be insensitive I'd LOVE the chance at my age to catch a sexually transmitted disease. Any disease :((
Blimey, I'm over 50, and without wishing to be insensitive I'd LOVE the chance at my age to catch a sexually transmitted disease. Any disease :(( Jimmy Stewart's Imaginary Rabbit
  • Score: 0

3:19pm Fri 9 Nov 12

Freeloaders says...

Lol Jimmy i can understand that some how.You made my day thank you.
Lol Jimmy i can understand that some how.You made my day thank you. Freeloaders
  • Score: 0

8:48am Sat 10 Nov 12

Maxwell's Ghost says...

Brighton has one of the best HIV services in the UK so maybe people with HIV move here and maybe they already suspect that they have it.
If you visit Aylesbury it has many more people in wheelchairs than many towns.
Why?
It's proximity to stoke mandeville hospital, the spinal injury rehab centre for the UK.
Brighton has one of the best HIV services in the UK so maybe people with HIV move here and maybe they already suspect that they have it. If you visit Aylesbury it has many more people in wheelchairs than many towns. Why? It's proximity to stoke mandeville hospital, the spinal injury rehab centre for the UK. Maxwell's Ghost
  • Score: 0

10:43am Sat 10 Nov 12

Plantpot says...

AIDS is a lifestyle disease. If you don't want it, be careful of the situations you put yourself in.
AIDS is a lifestyle disease. If you don't want it, be careful of the situations you put yourself in. Plantpot
  • Score: 0

10:44am Sat 10 Nov 12

Take it Personally says...

Epidemics change and evolve, through effective education at those most at risk before (gay men, IV Drug users etc) rates of transmission within these population groups have declined, but education now needs to be targeted at the general population as there is now a greater "pool" of infection within the heterosexual community.
Commissioners of health services, and schools need to start making people aware of the risks now,education campaigns need to be stepped up and appropriately targeted at the new population at risk.
There is no excuse, one just has to follow how the epidemic has evolved and plan for this. Education should have been happening again in schools years ago. Most people asked couldn't even tell you what HIV or AIDS stands for whereas 10 years ago most people could -a definite sign things have slacked off.
Epidemics change and evolve, through effective education at those most at risk before (gay men, IV Drug users etc) rates of transmission within these population groups have declined, but education now needs to be targeted at the general population as there is now a greater "pool" of infection within the heterosexual community. Commissioners of health services, and schools need to start making people aware of the risks now,education campaigns need to be stepped up and appropriately targeted at the new population at risk. There is no excuse, one just has to follow how the epidemic has evolved and plan for this. Education should have been happening again in schools years ago. Most people asked couldn't even tell you what HIV or AIDS stands for whereas 10 years ago most people could -a definite sign things have slacked off. Take it Personally
  • Score: 0

12:16pm Sat 10 Nov 12

Dirk Von Roden says...

as someone who has never had a HIV test after reading the above article I am going to have the test! although no longer promiscious (sorry about the spelling)I am a straight male who in my youth had many relationships , I always had open relationships never monogamous ! I think I should have the test as I am sure others will think about their own past ! thanks Argus for making me think!!
as someone who has never had a HIV test after reading the above article I am going to have the test! although no longer promiscious (sorry about the spelling)I am a straight male who in my youth had many relationships , I always had open relationships never monogamous ! I think I should have the test as I am sure others will think about their own past ! thanks Argus for making me think!! Dirk Von Roden
  • Score: 0

3:09pm Sat 10 Nov 12

Orlando Faark says...

Perhaps some of them caught it whilst working in missionary positions in Africa?
Perhaps some of them caught it whilst working in missionary positions in Africa? Orlando Faark
  • Score: 0

4:37pm Sat 10 Nov 12

clubrob6 says...

HIV is a terrible disease to catch,i lost all my friends and most of my family through the STIGMA.I did not sleep around i caught it through a partner that was.I also dont believe most of these over 50s are all straight,the gay cruising grounds are full of married and bi men who practice unsafe sex as probably they dont understand the risks.There should be a campaign to let so called straight men who occasionaly go gay cruising,bi men,and of course warn the risks that hiv can actually be spread through straight sex.Understandably when men give information to the clinics they might not want to say they are bi etc so say they are straight.No matter what sexual orientation you are you are best being tested as treatments are good these days but i must warn you THE STIGMA OF HIV IS STILL HERE especially in the gay community itself.Im speaking from experience unfortunately.
HIV is a terrible disease to catch,i lost all my friends and most of my family through the STIGMA.I did not sleep around i caught it through a partner that was.I also dont believe most of these over 50s are all straight,the gay cruising grounds are full of married and bi men who practice unsafe sex as probably they dont understand the risks.There should be a campaign to let so called straight men who occasionaly go gay cruising,bi men,and of course warn the risks that hiv can actually be spread through straight sex.Understandably when men give information to the clinics they might not want to say they are bi etc so say they are straight.No matter what sexual orientation you are you are best being tested as treatments are good these days but i must warn you THE STIGMA OF HIV IS STILL HERE especially in the gay community itself.Im speaking from experience unfortunately. clubrob6
  • Score: 0

10:48pm Sat 10 Nov 12

Hove Actually says...

Maxwell's Ghost wrote:
Brighton has one of the best HIV services in the UK so maybe people with HIV move here and maybe they already suspect that they have it.
If you visit Aylesbury it has many more people in wheelchairs than many towns.
Why?
It's proximity to stoke mandeville hospital, the spinal injury rehab centre for the UK.
As they say "build it and they will come"
Is there a special fund for HIV services paid by central government or does it come from the funds allocated for our area?
[quote][p][bold]Maxwell's Ghost[/bold] wrote: Brighton has one of the best HIV services in the UK so maybe people with HIV move here and maybe they already suspect that they have it. If you visit Aylesbury it has many more people in wheelchairs than many towns. Why? It's proximity to stoke mandeville hospital, the spinal injury rehab centre for the UK.[/p][/quote]As they say "build it and they will come" Is there a special fund for HIV services paid by central government or does it come from the funds allocated for our area? Hove Actually
  • Score: 0

9:28am Sun 11 Nov 12

leobrighton says...

If they are straight where are the women who they are catching it from?
If they are straight where are the women who they are catching it from? leobrighton
  • Score: 1

10:21am Sun 11 Nov 12

Old Ladys Gin says...

Jimmy Stewart's Imaginary Rabbit wrote:
Blimey, I'm over 50, and without wishing to be insensitive I'd LOVE the chance at my age to catch a sexually transmitted disease. Any disease :((
Because you are over fifty it does not mean your sex life should stop; mine certainly hasn't.
You just have to remember the golden rule:
Wrap it up before you slap it up - no excuses, ever!
[quote][p][bold]Jimmy Stewart's Imaginary Rabbit[/bold] wrote: Blimey, I'm over 50, and without wishing to be insensitive I'd LOVE the chance at my age to catch a sexually transmitted disease. Any disease :(([/p][/quote]Because you are over fifty it does not mean your sex life should stop; mine certainly hasn't. You just have to remember the golden rule: Wrap it up before you slap it up - no excuses, ever! Old Ladys Gin
  • Score: 0

10:23am Sun 11 Nov 12

Maxwell's Ghost says...

Apparently they are from Uranus.
Apparently they are from Uranus. Maxwell's Ghost
  • Score: 0

10:23am Sun 11 Nov 12

Old Ladys Gin says...

leobrighton wrote:
If they are straight where are the women who they are catching it from?
As Oscar Wilde said:
'Sitting next to you on the Clapham omnibus'.
They will be the ordinary woman in the street who is sailing blissfully on unware.
You cannot look at a person and know they have HIV.
[quote][p][bold]leobrighton[/bold] wrote: If they are straight where are the women who they are catching it from?[/p][/quote]As Oscar Wilde said: 'Sitting next to you on the Clapham omnibus'. They will be the ordinary woman in the street who is sailing blissfully on unware. You cannot look at a person and know they have HIV. Old Ladys Gin
  • Score: 0

12:29pm Sun 11 Nov 12

Old Ladys Gin says...

Algeria Touchshriek wrote:
I don't mind the gays but it is bisexual men who have infected the women and then they unwittingly pass it on to straight men.

So yes, male bum fun IS the cause of AIDS.
And all those straight men who 'enjoy' the company of local women when they go abroad, or even to the Olympics.
Are you aware of how many prostitutes were shipped in for this event alone? Or, perhaps how many men will pay extra for unprotected sex with a prostitute.
AIDS world wide is largely a heterosexual virus caught through heterosexual unprotected sex, whether that be vaginal or anal.
AIDS does not discriminate when it comes to a persons sexuality.
[quote][p][bold]Algeria Touchshriek[/bold] wrote: I don't mind the gays but it is bisexual men who have infected the women and then they unwittingly pass it on to straight men. So yes, male bum fun IS the cause of AIDS.[/p][/quote]And all those straight men who 'enjoy' the company of local women when they go abroad, or even to the Olympics. Are you aware of how many prostitutes were shipped in for this event alone? Or, perhaps how many men will pay extra for unprotected sex with a prostitute. AIDS world wide is largely a heterosexual virus caught through heterosexual unprotected sex, whether that be vaginal or anal. AIDS does not discriminate when it comes to a persons sexuality. Old Ladys Gin
  • Score: 0

12:34pm Sun 11 Nov 12

Old Ladys Gin says...

Algeria Touchshriek wrote:
I don't mind the gays but it is bisexual men who have infected the women and then they unwittingly pass it on to straight men.

So yes, male bum fun IS the cause of AIDS.
Or perhaps you would prefer the many northern european women who go to saharan and sub saharan africa to get a nice bit of local c*ck.
I've been there many times and seen it done umpteen times, on beaches, in bars, and obviously out of sight as well.
Much of it unprotected because of course these women are bullet proof and surely only poofs get AIDS.
Then back to their cosy life in northern europe, all sun tanned and possibly carrying a lot more than a bottle of duty free booze.
[quote][p][bold]Algeria Touchshriek[/bold] wrote: I don't mind the gays but it is bisexual men who have infected the women and then they unwittingly pass it on to straight men. So yes, male bum fun IS the cause of AIDS.[/p][/quote]Or perhaps you would prefer the many northern european women who go to saharan and sub saharan africa to get a nice bit of local c*ck. I've been there many times and seen it done umpteen times, on beaches, in bars, and obviously out of sight as well. Much of it unprotected because of course these women are bullet proof and surely only poofs get AIDS. Then back to their cosy life in northern europe, all sun tanned and possibly carrying a lot more than a bottle of duty free booze. Old Ladys Gin
  • Score: 0

5:27pm Sun 11 Nov 12

NickBrt says...

As we had years of bigotted backlash against gay men can we now have those bigots telling us how dreadful it is to be hetero?
As we had years of bigotted backlash against gay men can we now have those bigots telling us how dreadful it is to be hetero? NickBrt
  • Score: 0

10:44am Mon 12 Nov 12

Old Ladys Gin says...

These people wouldn't simply have gone along for an HIV test if it wasn't on their radar.
They must have presented with symptoms of other STIs from their unprotected shagging around in the first place.
It would come as an awful shock to anyone and the more so if it hadn't even occurred to you.
These people wouldn't simply have gone along for an HIV test if it wasn't on their radar. They must have presented with symptoms of other STIs from their unprotected shagging around in the first place. It would come as an awful shock to anyone and the more so if it hadn't even occurred to you. Old Ladys Gin
  • Score: 0

8:58pm Mon 12 Nov 12

sussexram40 says...

Yes, HIV is well established in the straight community now. OK the risk of a) your new bedroom assistant being HIV+ and b) if they are you catching it, may be low but it's happening. Don'y play russian roulettewith your health. Safe sex is the only way to go unless you are in a monogomous relationship and both of you have been given the all clear. I wonder how many cases of HIV are actually due to alcohol.
Yes, HIV is well established in the straight community now. OK the risk of a) your new bedroom assistant being HIV+ and b) if they are you catching it, may be low but it's happening. Don'y play russian roulettewith your health. Safe sex is the only way to go unless you are in a monogomous relationship and both of you have been given the all clear. I wonder how many cases of HIV are actually due to alcohol. sussexram40
  • Score: 0

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