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Older people warned by charities about the risk of late HIV diagnosis

A 56-year-old patient whose appendicitis turned out to be a result of HIV said he thought it was “a disease of a young person.”

Ashley, whose middle name was not revealed, told it BBC that people over 50 think they are safe to have unprotected sex because they are not getting pregnant.

But charities have reminded today that HIV can affect anyone, and STDs are becoming a growing problem among older people in the UK.

Of those who have been diagnosed with HIV for more than 50, six in ten receive a late diagnosis, according to official figures, as experts fear that GPs will not offer sexual health tests.

They also said that older generations do not use condoms because they mistakenly believe that HIV is a “gay disease,” a stigma that followed the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s.

Ashley, 56, whose appendicitis turned out to be a result of HIV, said they thought it was “a disease of a young person.” They were diagnosed at a late stage, such as the six in ten over fifty

Ashley, whose second name has not been revealed, told the BBC that people over 50 think they are safe to have unprotected sex and not get STDs like HIV

Ashley, whose second name has not been revealed, told the BBC that people over 50 think they are safe to have unprotected sex and not get STDs like HIV

Ashley, whose second name has not been revealed, told the BBC that people over 50 think they are safe to have unprotected sex and not get STDs like HIV

Ashley, now 59 years old, received an HIV diagnosis so late that the virus had already damaged their immune system.

Ashley was brought to the hospital with appendicitis and shingles, but never thought the cause was HIV. Doctors also gave no indication of the virus.

Ashley said, “They said there was nothing wrong with you, you had a virus – not knowing that I still had the biggest virus you could get.

People over 50, people who have come from a divorce or marriage, think they are safe.

“Because no one can become pregnant anymore” there is no danger.

“Because” those diseases are for young people. But they are not, they are for everyone.

“I didn’t mind being HIV positive. But it was just that delay – that they didn’t find it. It was so long … and the damage to my body – I am a bit bitter about it. ”


You can only get or pass on HIV through specific activities, usually through sexual behavior and needle or syringe use.

Using a condom during sex is one of the best ways to prevent you from getting HIV, as well as other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

Anyone can get HIV if they have unprotected sex, but gay men are among the risk groups. Women who have only had sex with women are at low risk.

In 2018 there were approximately 101,600 people living with HIV, according to public health in England.

The distribution is as follows:

Gay and bisexual men: 48,000

heterosexuals: 48,600

  • Black African men: 8,700
  • Men excluding black African men: 9,600
  • Black African women: 18,200
  • Women excluding black Africans: 10,700

People who inject drugs: 2200

Karen Norton, 63, who contracted HIV in Africa a few years ago, said: “Most of us all believe that we are invincible and that it will never happen to us.

‘Professionals assume that a 50-year-old would not have this disease.

‘It’s an assumption that I think is generally something that we all do with more than 50-year-olds.

“If you have unprotected sex, it can happen to you. I am a living example. ”

HIV is carried in certain body fluids, including blood, sperm, vaginal secretions and breast milk.

Having unprotected sex or sharing equipment for injecting drugs increases the risk of HIV.

Although gay men are among the at-risk groups, anyone can get HIV if they have unprotected sex.

Many people over 50 still enjoy an active sex life in their 60s, 70s and beyond and are increasingly single or starting new relationships because of divorce or mourning.

Experts have blamed unprotected sex for the fact that the elderly are not worried about pregnancy due to rising STD rates among people over 45.

Aled Osborne, from Brigstowe, a charity in Bristol who supports people with HIV, said: “Older people use the same dating sites and apps that young people use, so they meet new people.

“People may think that HIV does not apply to them because they do not identify themselves as gay.

“Women in this age category can also be postmenopausal and because there is no risk of pregnancy, it may not be necessary for both partners to use condoms.

“The stigma about divorce and the vision to continue to get married after a loved one has died has diminished considerably, so people move on and meet new partners.”

This stigma that HIV is a ‘gay disease’ was formed by the HIV and AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and 90s and still exists today.

Natasha Dhumma, head of policies and campaigns at National AIDS Trust (NAT), said HIV education should be extended to an older audience.

She said: ‘Huge steps have been taken since the 1980s; medical progress, better test results and early diagnosis, access to information through relationships and sex education in schools, online and sexual health care.

“But older people do not necessarily benefit from this and are often not considered an important audience for such initiatives. This must change because HIV affects people of all ages. “

The total HIV figures have fallen considerably since 2012 – today an estimated 101,600 people with HIV live in the UK, almost half (47,800) of whom are heterosexual.

But a major challenge in the UK is late diagnosis, especially among the over-50s and heterosexual men.

Six out of ten people in brackets who were diagnosed with HIV in 2018 were told at a late stage, according to official figures.

The symptoms of fatigue, rapid weight loss, and night sweats can be missed by doctors or incorrectly diagnosed.

Osbourne said: “This cohort may not be aware of the services available for sexual health testing and is likely going to their doctor for a health condition.

“Some GPs and the general population do not consider these people to be sex, so don’t start a conversation and this is where missed opportunities to test and diagnose occur.

“HIV is not the death sentence it once was. The sooner people are tested, the sooner they can start treatment. “

People with HIV who are diagnosed late are not aware of their HIV infection for an average of three to five years. During this time they can transmit the virus to others.

They have a ten times greater risk of dying within a year than those who are diagnosed quickly.

Ms. Dhumma, of NAT, said, “Older people living with HIV are more likely to experience loneliness and other long-term conditions in addition to HIV, which means that their care needs may be more complex.”


Since the onset of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, more than 77 million people have become infected with HIV.

According to estimates, nearly half of them – 35.4 million – have died from AIDS.

Until the 1980s, it is not known how many people infected with HIV or AIDS have developed.

HIV was poorly understood and the transmission was not accompanied by noticeable signs or symptoms.

Doctors initially mistakenly labeled it as “gay-related immune deficiency” (GRID) and noted that immune deficiency often affected gays.

In 1982 the CDC in the US used the term “AIDS” (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) for the first time. AIDS cases were also reported in a number of European countries.

In 1983, AIDS was reported among the female partners of men who had the disease and suggested that it could be transmitted through heterosexual sex.

In November, the World Health Organization (WHO) held its first meeting to assess the global AIDS situation and began international surveillance, by which time the number of AIDS cases in the US had risen to 3,064 – of which 1,292 had died.

By the end of 1985, every region in the world had reported at least one case of AIDS, with a total of 20,303 cases.

In 1987, the FDA approved the first antiretroviral drug, zidovudine (AZT), as a treatment for HIV.

The number of AIDS cases reported in the US reached 100,000 in 1989.

AIDS and HIV in the 1990s and beyond

In 1991, Freddie Mercury, lead singer of rock group Queen, announced he had AIDS and died a day later.

Various vaccines, test kits and treatments were developed worldwide in the 90s.

But in 1999 the WHO announced that AIDS was the fourth largest cause of death worldwide and the number one killer in Africa.

HIV remains an important global public health problem. In 2017, an estimated 36.9 million people were living with HIV, including 1.8 million children. About 25 percent of these people don’t know they have the virus.

If someone is taking medication with HIV and has a non-detectable viral load, they cannot pass on the virus.

Source: Turn away