HIV hotspot as cases soar among MK’s straight men

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One out of every 352 people in Milton Keynes is infected with HIV.

The shock statistics, which brand MK the 17th highest HIV city outside of London, were revealed this week by the National AIDS Trust.

They came as no surprise to Kingston-based HIV/AIDS support group STaSS, where experts are still struggling to understand why the city is such an HIV hotspot.

Workers at STaSS have seen the number of cases locally increase threefold since 2002 .

Disturbingly the figures are still rising, said co-founder Tina Jones this week.

The vast majority of STaSS clients are heterosexual men, bucking the national trend where 42 per cent are gay or bisexual men. In Milton Keynes 70 per cent are black Africans, many of whom have contracted the virus since coming to the UK, said Tina.

She is convinced the biggest cause of the city’s HIV surge is the number of people who fail to get tested.

“There could be hundreds of people out there who don’t realise they are HIV positive. These people could be having unprotected sex,” she said.

STaSS, contactable on 01908 282185, runs free speedy testing sessions at Broughton Medical Centre on alternate Saturdays.

Recently it invited MP Iain Stewart to demonstrate the importance of testing, pictured above. Tina said: “The message is simple: do not have unprotected sex and do get tested as soon as possible. Early diagnosis is vital these days as HIV can almost disappear with early treatment.”

Recently two pregnant STaSS clients gave birth to healthy, HIV-free babies. Tina and her colleagues are now hoping for a string of similar success stories.

Meanwhile, Milton Keynes Council last month took over the responsibilty for public health, and the National Aids Trust is calling for the authority to prioritise sexual health.