In Brief

CLAIM: 41% of those living with HIV in Northern Ireland are heterosexual.

CONCLUSION: The claim is accurate. Furthermore, Northern Ireland has observed the fastest growth in diagnoses over the past 10 years, when compared to the average both in Ireland and in the United Kingdom.

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Photo used by license iStock/Gam1983

Speaking of a new drug that would help prevent HIV, Northern Ireland Assembly Health chair Paula Bradley of the DUP stated: “41% of those living with HIV in Northern Ireland are heterosexual”. This is based on statistics published in the annual HIV Surveillance Report, which show that “of those receiving care, (331/809) acquired their infection through heterosexual contact.” It also states that out of the 809 people currently receiving treatment, 90% contracted the disease through sexual contact.

Rates around the British Isles

Across the United Kingdom, there are approximately 45,000 men living with HIV who were infected through sex with other men (MSM). This is out of  103,700 people in total, and compared with 54,100 people who contracted the disease through heterosexual sex. This means that in the UK as a whole, 52% of people living with HIV are heterosexual.

Data from Ireland does not reveal how many people are living with HIV. However, it shows a very similar proportion of new HIV infections through male to male contact. In 2014, 48.5% of new diagnoses were a result of homosexual activity, while 33.2% were from heterosexual activity. This is a drop from 50% in 2004.

Trends in HIV diagnoses

A vast majority of those diagnosed with HIV that had contracted the infection through male to male contact acquired the infection in Northern Ireland, while the opposite is true for those who contracted the disease through heterosexual activity. It is also important to note that 7% of those living with HIV in Northern Ireland did not get infected through sex at all, but other activities such as drug use. To date, there have been 22 cases of transmission through intravenous drug use, and another 53 through undetermined causes.