New data published shows that one in five new cases of HIV in Northern Ireland, are in men over the age of 45, and that these diagnosis are on the rise. The figures are a real cause for concern as clearly the safe sex message isn’t getting through. The situation is fur

ther complicated by the fact that a large part of this population still seem to have a fear of testing for HIV and what a positive diagnosis means.

Some might not go for testing because of the stigma attached to being gay, which is still a problem in Northern Ireland, ( and elsewhere), or else they might be married whilst having sex with other men outside the relationship and wish to keep this secret.

Others have been in long-term relationships that have broken down, and all of a sudden they have a new sex life (especially with medications such as Viagra freely available), with new avenues of meeting men such as internet dating sites and a rise in anonymous sexual encounters.

However this demographic have very limited knowledge when it comes to the risks of HIV and other STI’s, as they never really had a reason to be concerned about this whilst in a relationship. They therefore may have missed out on vital safe sex messages that are aimed at people engaging with and coming in for testing. Diagnosis in older men are going up across the range of STI’s not just HIV and we are seeing a similar picture in England. Furthermore due to the fact that these men don’t come in for testing, about half of them present late to the clinic, are already unwell and require immediate treatment.

I cannot stress enough that regardless of your age or how you define your sexuality, HIV is still a big problem that can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, sexuality or race and it is vital to make yourself aware of the risks and how to protect yourself and to make it a priority get screened regularly.