HIV THE OLDER & & WOMAN; EXCLUSIVE AIDS CHARITY URGE MIDDLE-AGED FEMALES TO GET TESTED FOR DISEASE Sexual Freedom and a Lack of Contraception Means Many Play Russian Roulette with Their Health

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Byline: Annie Brown

A CHARITY have urged women in Scotland to get tested for HIV because many are being diagnosed dangerously late.

Waverley Care have warned that women in their 40s, 50s and 60s are slipping through the net of diagnosis because doctors assume they don't fall into a high risk category.

The key to managing HIV is to catch it early, when it is a manageable chronic disease and not the death sentence it was once deemed to be.

But last year, more than a third of people who tested positive in Scotland were diagnosed late - at a point when the virus had already done significant damage to their immune system.

Martha Baillie, a senior manager with the Edinburgh charity, said that cases were being missed because of the ignorance of women themselves and the medical profession.

Women no longer feel pressured to stay in long-term relationships but when they become sexually active again, some are playing Russian roulette with their health by having unsafe sex. For on HIV, Waverley Edinburgh 0131 or www.care.

Martha said: "Women are back on the relationship scene in a way they haven't been for a long time and there is still an assumption that HIV is about gay men and drug users. They don't believe they are at risk but they are.

"It is less frowned upon for women in the 40s, 50s and 60s to have different partners. That is not a bad thing.

"It is about being informed and confident enough to protect your sexual health, that's where the gap seems to be.

Women need to be tested. They should know their status. That is about taking responsibilty for yourself."

Women are being diagnosed when they are much older, some in their 50s and late 60s. Martha said: "They are not necessarily old infections, they are often new infections."

One third of people living with HIV don't know they have it and there is an increasing number of cases now in middle-aged and older females.

Beth, a worker with the charity, who is also HIV positive and doesn't want to be identified, said that an HIV test was too often the last resort of the medical profession, even when women presented with all the classic symptoms.

She said: "GPs aren't testing. They may see a professional woman who is together and well dressed and so they don't register that HIV might be an issue.

advice contact Care in on 558 1425 online at waverley org "Those are the women in danger, who end up in hospital, having lost a few stone, with doctors scratching their heads until finally someone suggests an HIV test. …