THE number of Wiganers with HIV has doubled in the last five years, a shock report reveals.
And health chiefs have issued a special warning to the borough’s over-50s because that age group has suffered the brunt of the increase.
In fact, the Centre for Public Health says it is particularly concerned at the number of new cases among older people.
Wigan borough had 23 new cases of the potentially deadly infection in 2011, of which nearly a quarter were aged 50 or above. This trend was echoed across the North West with over-50s making up a fifth of cases throughout the region.
Author of the report Jane Harris, said: “It is promising that the numbers of people living with HIV to an older age is rising.
“However, caring for the health needs of older people with HIV will present new challenges.
“Rising divorce rates and access to online dating sites among other accessible ways to meet new people has meant older people are starting more new relationships.
“Most warnings about sexually transmitted disease are targeted at young people but older people also need to know that they need to practice safe sex and have regular health screenings.”
The figures show 189 people living with the disease in the borough last year compared to 86 in 2006.
Ms Harris, said: “The rise in the number of cases is to be expected because there is now more effective treatment available.
“A diagnosis used to be a death sentence but it no longer is.
“But we are concerned about the rise of new cases in the older age groups because we think it may be due to the attitude that they are not affected by these things and are less likely to practice safe sex.”
Greater Manchester has the largest number of HIV cases in the North West with 4,276 and also had the highest number of new cases, 443.
CPH Professor Mark Bellis, said: “With so much discussion focusing on the sexual health of young people some disturbing trends in older people’s sexual health are often overlooked.
“Many individuals are looking to start new partnerships in later life and they need to be reminded about how to avoid HIV and other sexually transmitted infections just as much as teenagers.”
Human immunodeficiency virus causes progressive failure of the immune system and can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).