The number of people, in particular gay men, who have tested positive for STIs including HIV has reached record highs. It is thought that the rise in unprotected sex and drug use in clubs is to blame for the increase in HIV, Chlamydia, Gonorrhoea and Syphilis where there are record high infection rates. The number of gay men who tested positive for the first time for HIV in 2012 was 3,250, which is the highest year on record. There were also 8.500 new cases of Chlamydia, 10,800 new cases of Gonorrhoea, 2,100 new cases of Syphilis and 11,350 other STIs.
Experts believe that the increase in success of treatment for HIV means that people are less likely to take precautions, as it is no longer the life-threatening illness that it was, and so people are less worried about it, and having more unprotected sex as they no longer feel the need to protect themselves from it. There is also complacency around positive people transmitting the virus, which if they are taking their medicine can be a much lower risk than it once was. People are more used to actively managing their disease with apps, and more information than ever before, and can significantly reduce their risk of transmitting HIV.
Other gay men are sero-sorting or looking for partners who have the same HIV status as them, but of course being HIV positive does not stop you getting Chlamydia, Hepatitis C and other STIs which could affect your long term health and be harder for your body to fight if your immune system is compromised.
Changing people’s behaviour can be a difficult and long term campaign, and while the “Don’t Die of Ignorance” Campaign in the 1980s gave the clear message to wear a condom, advances in medical treatment have moved on, but the message has not been updated to help keep people safe.
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