Three heterosexuals diagnosed with HIV last month in Northern Ireland
A sexual health doctor has revealed she has diagnosed three heterosexuals with HIV in the last month.
Dr Lisa Nelligan said one of the patients was a young professional living in Belfast who was unwittingly infected by his girlfriend.
She had contracted the disease from a former partner and had no idea she was HIV positive, according to Dr Nelligan.
The GP, who runs a sexual health clinic at Kingsbridge Private Hospital in south Belfast, was speaking out as thousands of students begin the new academic year to remind them of the ongoing risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
“There are between 60 and 70 new cases of HIV diagnosed in Northern Ireland every year and I have seen three in the past month,” she said.
“There is an idea that HIV largely affects homosexuals, but that isn’t the case and all three of the people I saw were heterosexuals.
“One of them was a woman from eastern Europe who had contracted it when she was over there.
“There was another woman from Belfast and the third was an affluent, young, professional heterosexual in his 20s and his diagnosis was a real surprise.
“He was a young guy with a good job and he was in a steady relationship.
“He had been to his GP maybe four or five times, he wasn’t feeling wonderful, his glands were up, and he came in to me to get checked out.
“He was low risk so I told him I could call him in a few days with the results and when they came through I was pretty shocked.
“We worked out he had contracted it from his girlfriend and it turned out she had contracted it from a previous partner and didn’t know.
“She was actually a healthcare worker so her diagnosis will have an impact on her work. The diagnosis can be catastrophic.”
However, Dr Nelligan said that advancements in treatments mean that HIV patients can lead healthy lives for decades.
But she stressed the importance of an early diagnosis when reducing the damage caused by the virus.
“HIV isn’t in the media as much as it used to be, so younger people in particular don’t think about it as a threat,” she continued.