Bath and North East Somerset’s public health team is backing Age UK’s campaign to raise awareness of the increasing rate of HIV in the over 50s.
There are currently more than 100 people living with HIV across Bath and North East Somerset, with one in three over the age of 50.
Nationally over the past four years, there has been a dramatic drop in the overall number of people diagnosed with HIV, but the diagnosis rate in those over the age of fifty is increasing.
To try to address the issue AgeUK has launched a new campaign: ‘HIV: Age is No Protection’. It aims to help the over 50s understand more about HIV and encourage them to access sexual health resources.
In support of the campaign and National HIV testing week, which runs from Saturday 16th to Friday 22nd November, Bath’s Riverside Clinic is holding additional free walk-in clinics for people who want advice or an HIV test.
The clinics will run from 8.30am to 1pm Monday 18th – Saturday 23rd November.
Bruce Laurence, Bath & North East Somerset director of Public Health, said: “HIV is now a treatable condition. Medication can keep the virus totally under control, which means that those living with the disease can lead an active and healthy life without experiencing symptoms or passing the virus on.
“However, it is really important people get tested as early as possible if they have any chance of being at risk through current or past sexual behaviour, use of injectable drugs or potentially risky medical procedures.
“Late diagnosis delays treatment, which could lead to symptomatic and dangerous illnesses, and could also mean that the infection gets passed on to others.”
AgeUK discovered there are several reasons why there’s been an increase in the diagnosis rate in over 50s including being ill-informed about HIV, a reluctance to disclose sexual history to new partners, mistaking symptoms and therefore taking the wrong medication and missed or incorrect diagnosis in Primary care.
The ‘HIV: Age is No Protection’ campaign aims to ensure older people understand the advances made in preventing and treating HIV since the 1980s with the main message being Think – Test – Treat.
Think about safe sex; if there are any concerns, get tested, and if necessary, effective treatment is available. The campaign will feature in social and mainstream media both in the run-up to and after World Aids Day on Sunday 1st December.
The National Aids Trust said: “We wholeheartedly support AgeUK’s campaign to raise HIV awareness among older people.
“Thanks to prevention efforts, new HIV diagnoses in the UK have fallen significantly since 2015, but we’re not seeing the same rate of progress among older people, especially older women.
“Two-thirds of people over 65 are diagnosed late, which can have serious consequences for health outcomes.
“HIV and sexual health interventions must consider people of all ages if we’re going to tackle HIV effectively and achieve our goal of ending HIV transmissions in the UK by 2030.”
For more information about the free walk-in clinic at the Riverside Clinic visit: https://ruh.nhs.uk/sexualhealth.
For further information about AgeUK’s campaign, visit: https://www.ageuk.org.uk/wiltshire/about-us/hiv-awareness.