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For the first time in a decade, the number of HIV infections in heterosexual people has surpassed that of gay and bisexual men in the UK.

According to a report from the Health Security Agency (HSA), there has been a 50 per cent increase in new diagnoses in heterosexual men and women. In comparison, 45 per cent of new infections were seen in gay and bisexual men.

Due to the pandemic and COVID-19 restrictions, the country saw a drop in testing within both groups.

However, testing amongst heterosexual individuals fell by 33 per cent compared to 7 per cent in gay and bisexual men in 2020.

Due to the lack of testing, heterosexual people have had a higher chance of being diagnosed late.

The report revealed that 51 per cent of women and 55 per cent of heterosexual men were diagnosed at a later stage.

Head of programmes at Terrence Higgins Trust, Taku Mukiwa, opened up about the new findings in a statement.

“For the first time in a decade there are more heterosexuals than gay and bisexual men being diagnosed with HIV. Heterosexuals also saw a far steeper drop in testing for HIV during COVID-19 lockdown and are far more likely to be diagnosed late,” Mukiwa said.

“That’s why we need to see more heterosexuals getting tested to avoid anyone living with undiagnosed HIV for a long time. This is important for their own health as well as for efforts to stop HIV being passed on as the vast majority of people get HIV from someone who is unaware they have it.”

While HIV infections have increased amongst straight men and women, gay and bisexual men are still “more impacted” by the immunodeficiency virus.

But over the years, new diagnoses within queer men has steadily decreased, with a fall of 70 per cent between 2014 and 2020.

The significant decline in cases is attributed to the growing accessibility of PrEP, which is an HIV prevention pill.

The increase of HIV testing has also played a part in lowering the diagnoses in gay and bisexual men.

In a statement, health and social care secretary Sajid Javid praised the decrease of HIV cases in queer men – while highlighting the importance of testing in heterosexual individuals.

“It is fantastic to see the diagnosis rate of HIV fall further among gay and bisexual men as a result of testing and the routine commissioning of PrEP, but we must make sure this trend is reflected in all groups,” he said.

“I am committed to our goal of no new HIV transmissions by 2030, but we cannot achieve it alone. We all have a part to play – HIV testing is free and confidential for everyone, and knowing your status will allow you to access appropriate prevention or treatment.”

You can grab your free HIV test kit here.