A recent report suggests that HIV infections in straight people now outnumber the infection rate in gay people, in Kent. Nationally the picture is different, where HIV rates in gay men are much higher than in heterosexuals. Eighty new cases where identified in Kent yearly

according to the study.

The study was performed by the Canterbury Christ Church University. Results showed that the number of infections in straight people was higher than in the local gay population. Nationally the picture has been the other way around with the majority of new diagnosis seen in MSM. There has been an increase in HIV diagnosis across England in 2012.

Over the years the landscape of HIV infections has changed dramatically and we are seeing a wider variety of people affected by HIV. This is partly due to people’s perception that HIV is now treatable and no longer a death sentence, but partly because there is a whole generation of people becoming sexually active, that have very little knowledge about HIV and how it is passed on.

One of the biggest problems is the lack of knowledge about HIV in the straight population, which means that heterosexuals often get diagnosed later than people in the gay community, who tend to be better informed on the topic. There is also a lack of awareness on the part of doctors, who fail to consider HIV when it comes to their straight patients, due to an incorrect and outdated assumption that HIV is just a problem in the gay community or with IV drug users.

Nationally HIV diagnoses have increased with 3250 new HIV diagnosis in gay and bisexual men reported in 2012. This is the highest levels seen since the start of the epidemic. One of the biggest problems is that people who are unaware that they have the virus transmit the virus unwittingly to partners. This is why it is so vital that people get tested regularly for HIV. Once diagnosed they can be put on treatment which reduces the viral load and once the viral load is undetectable the risk of transmitting HIV reduces massively, some studies have reported that people with an undetectable viral load do not transmit the virus.

The best advice is to have protected sex and to test if you think you might have been exposed. With National HIV testing week starting on 22 November, now is the time to test