Men and HIV: longer lives, new problems

Shaun Watson
Clinical Nurse Specialist (HIV Community) for Westminster
Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, London, UK

Now that HIV has turned 30, the subject of men and men’s issues is more pertinent than ever. More reliable, effective and sophisticated treatments certainly allow people to live longer, healthier lives with HIV – but we still have a huge transmission problem as the rate of new infections continues to rise. While some groups have seen a steady, consistent increase, the 2012 statistics for MSM (men who have sex with men) were disturbing. Figures supplied by the Health Protection Agency (HPA) in November 2012 [1] showed that an estimated 73,400 people were aware of their HIV diagnosis in the UK by the end of 2011, with the highest prevalence among MSM.
New diagnoses for MSM were 3010 in 2011, which is an all-time high (2000 were diagnosed in 2002, following an initial dip in the late ’80s and ’90s). We now have an estimated 31,900 MSM and 14,400 heterosexual men living with HIV in the UK. Because antiretroviral medications have improved and most HIV-positive men are living longer lives, we are now seeing new problems, such as the rise of cancers (particularly anal cancers). Today’s young people born with HIV are rapidly becoming sexually active young adults, with all the issues this brings. We have an older MSM population who face a potential rise in poverty, social isolation, anxiety, stress and depression because of proposed changes to the benefits system. There is an alarming increase in the use of recreational drugs, particularly crystal methamphetamine and mephedrone, with an associated rise in high-risk sexual activities. Read more…