TWICE as many Bournemouth residents are living with HIV compared with the national average, latest figures have revealed.
Three in every 1,000 people in the borough have the virus and hundreds of them don’t know they are affected.
The town has one of the highest levels in the UK and the manager of support centre Body Positive said there is only one answer: “Education, education, education.”
Richard Erven said lack of awareness means people are taking risks without considering the possibility of contracting HIV.
He said myths that only gay men or drug users are affected must be dispelled and said 58 per cent of those diagnosed are heterosexual with the 16 to 24 age group most at risk.
“For every two people that have contracted HIV through injecting needles, there has been an innocent baby born with HIV in the UK” he said.
“It’s vital that people are given more information so they can protect themselves.”
Mr Erven said the high numbers of young people visiting Bournemouth for its nightlife along with a high volume of students make the area vulnerable.
And he said 97 per cent of transmissions are due to unprotected sex.
“If you have unprotected sex you should get yourself checked for HIV in the same way as people do for things such as chlamydia and gonorrhea.”
Body Positive is involved in an education programme in schools, colleges, universities and private organisations.
But Mr Erven said more funds are needed for education.
The service has been the subject of funding cuts.
Figures produced by the Health Protection Agency revealed 30 per cent of those affected in Bournemouth are diagnosed late, which can seriously impact on their long term health.
WEBSITE sexualhealth mot.co.uk provides information and advice about sexually transmitted infections including HIV and details of how to get a simple, free Sexual Health MoT.
The website is simple and easy to use, especially for anyone who wants information, advice or to speak to someone in confidence about their concerns.
It offers vital information – you can find out where to get tested including for HIV, how to book a sexual health check up and where to get free condoms or request an email or call back via the website.
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