The Public Health Agency (PHA) is highlighting the importance of safer sex and HIV testing for men who have sex with men (MSM) during the Belfast Pride festival this week.
Recent figures show 396 people in Northern Ireland are living with HIV infection with 186 people becoming infected through sex between men – a figure that has been on the rise since 2000.
UK figures show that most men who are HIV positive, with the risk category being MSM, have acquired their infection in the UK. Therefore it is vitally important that men get regular testing to detect possible infections such as Syphilis, Gonorrhoea, Hepatitis B and HIV.
The PHA recommends regular testing and safer sex amongst MSM and would encourage:
- HIV testing should be the norm at least once a year for those MSM who change sexual partners
- Using condoms and water based lubricants consistently with all casual and new sexual partners, and continue to do so until both partners have been screened.
Dr Bernadette Cullen, Public Health Consultant, PHA, says it is crucial to get tested for HIV:
“If you are sexually active and particularly if you don’t know your partner’s HIV status you are at risk of catching Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs). For your own peace of mind contact your GP or local Genito Urinary Medicine (GUM) clinic and arrange to have a check-up if you think you may have put yourself at risk.”
John O’ Doherty, Director of The Rainbow Project says:
“Our message to MSM is to practise safer sex by always using a condom and lubricant, which are available free from The Rainbow Project or through our website. We also encourage all MSM to avail of regular sexual health screening.”
Dr Bernadette Cullen concluded: “The message is clear, if you think you are at risk, get checked out.”
For further information contact:
Public Health Agency Press Office on 028 9031 1611
Notes to the editor
The Rainbow Project safer sex campaign is jointly funded by the Public Health Agency (PHA), Health and Social Care Board and the DHSSPS. For more information contact John O’Doherty on: 9031 9030 or www.rainbow-project.org