Straight men at greater risk of contracting HIV in the West

Heterosexual men are contracting the HIV virus at a greater rate than gay men it has been reported in Western Australia.

Heterosexual men are contracting the HIV virus at a greater rate than gay men it has been reported in Western Australia.

And overseas travel is thought to be the key driver, with males having unprotected sex with women at the greatest risk of contracting the sexually transmitted virus.

Since the AIDs crisis broke in the early 1980s, gay men have led the numbers until this year when diagnosis dropped by 51%, compared to the average over the past five years.

Heterosexual diagnosis of the virus rose by 21%, with 26 cases detected in the past 12 months, all of them aged over 40 and travelling in South East Asia.  

The WA Health Department is now reminding blokes of how important it is to take precautions around sexual health.  The Department believes many men believe HIV is something homosexuals and intravenous drug users contract.

"These are middle-aged men, anywhere from their late 30s through to their middle-age, to older men, who have sexual partners overseas, who don't practice safe sex, they may even have partners they are returning to regularly and don't see the need for using condoms,’ said Lisa Bastian, manager of the Sexual Health and Blood Borne Virus Program.

Compounding the problem is that straight men are less likely to have regular STI tests or get checked out when they feel unwell. Late diagnosis is more common, and they are at risk of spreading the virus to others.

"It wasn't that long ago when we had quite a number of cases of people dying from AIDS, which is the end stage of HIV infection," said director of WA's Communicable Disease Control, Paul Armstrong

"It doesn't happen very often anymore because we have got such effective drugs.

"But if people leave their infection going for a long time it damages their immune system gradually over time to such an extent where they will pick up infections we don't often see in the community and that can be very devastating."

The Health Department’s new campaign will hit the airport departure lounge and men’s toilets, urging the use of condoms and safe sex practices while travelling.

They are also encouraged to take the HIV prevention drug Prep, considered to be 99% effective in reducing HIV transmission and taken as a ‘back up in case condoms break.

Widespread use of the drug in the gay community has been credited with driving down HIV infection rates.

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Read: HIV diagnosis numbers among straight men in WA now greater than for gay men  (ABC)

 

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