A WOMAN diagnosed with HIV while going through the menopause has urged older women to take precautions and get tested.

Mother-of-one Sue Mason, 60, caught the virus after she started dating again following her divorce.

There has been a five-fold increase in women aged between 45 and 56 receiving care for HIV in the UK in the last ten years, a study has found.

Sue, of Brighton, met a fellow divorcee in a bar after the end of her ten-year marriage and the pair enjoyed an 18-month romance.

Sue said: “We got on well and had a great time together, but we just couldn’t see it working long-term.

“We ended our relationship, but stayed good friends.

“I had many misconceptions about getting into a relationship at this age, including the idea that I didn’t need to worry about contraception because pregnancy was no longer a worry.

“It hadn’t crossed my mind that older people could get sexually transmitted infections and there is a real lack of information for the older age groups.

“When my ex-partner told me he had HIV and said I ought to get tested, I was appalled and angry, saying ‘how dare you?’.

“I just thought HIV wasn’t something which happened to older, heterosexual women.”

Her ex’s diagnosis came too late and he died just two weeks later.

Sue said: “His health went downhill very quickly, but nobody knew what was wrong with him until it was too late.

“I was devastated when he died. He was a lovely man and a father to a young girl. He didn’t deserve to die so young.”

Sue was diagnosed at an early stage and can expect to live as long a normal life. She said: “After my ex’s death, this felt like a death sentence. It was a dark time and I will never forget it.”

“I had no signs of being unwell and it wouldn’t have entered my mind to get tested, had it not been for my ex-partner. I’m grateful to him for telling me in person as who knows what could have happened otherwise.”

“Thanks to medication I can now live a healthy life, with a normal life expectancy and cannot pass on the infection. But I think there is still a stigma attached to HIV.”

Sue now speaks openly about her experience as a Positive Voices coordinator, based at the Brighton office of the Terrence Higgins Trust, a project set up to help to put an end to outdated views of what it means to live with HIV.

Sue arranges for people with HIV and Aids to go into schools, universities and work places to share their experience and raise awareness of the virus.

Sue, who talks about living with HIV during the “HIV Happy Hour” on community station RadioReverb in Brighton, also started an initiative to visit GP practices after a consultant asked her how she contracted the virus.

She said: “I got fed up with keeping quiet. There are some people who are unable to speak out, so I want to keep talking until there is no longer a stigma surrounding HIV.”

“I would urge people to use contraception and to get tested for HIV. Early diagnosis can save lives – and stop the transmission of infection.”