Health

Denise Welch apologises after blistering backlash over ‘utterly dangerous’ HIV tweet

Nola Ojomu February 9, 2022
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Denise Welch

Denise Welch attends the British LGBT Awards 2021 (Getty/Karwai Tang)

Denise Welch has come under fire after questioning why a straight woman was getting an HIV test, just weeks after it was revealed that straight people made up almost half of all new HIV diagnoses in 2020.

The Loose Women star faced immediate backlash for her misguided comment on Monday (8 February), which saw her ask Conservative MP Maria Caulfield why she was encouraging everyone to get tested for the virus as part of HIV Testing Week.

Her tweet was shared despite the fact Caulfield had made it pretty clear why she got the test in her tweet which read: “Today I joined #HIVTestingWeek by getting a quick, easy test for HIV. Viruses don’t discriminate – anyone can get HIV so I’d encourage anyone who hasn’t yet to find out your HIV status to help achieve our goal to end HIV transmission in England by 2030.”

Indeed, many Twitter users were disappointed by the former Coronation Street star’s tweet and she quickly deleted the comment.

 

However, the online backlash led Welch to respond to criticism with a grovelling apology as she tweeted: “My apologies. It was Ill informed.

“As a lifelong supporter of the LGBGTQ community it was a result of the govt lies and propaganda which I have questioned for 2 yrs and the timing. I was wrong and I’m sorry x.”

Many disappointed fans stressed how the star’s misguided message was particularly distressing due to recent figures revealing a large number of transmissions in straight people.

“Denise Welch HIV tweet leaves a bad taste in your mouth; in a year when there were more transmissions of HIV/AIDS in the straights than the gays,” one wrote. “It is a disease that universally effects all people and this bitch out here huffing out of her arse despite living through the 80’s.”

Richard Angell, Campaigns Director at Terrence Higgins Trust, told PinkNews in a statement: “National HIV Testing Week has been running for 10 years to increase HIV testing and promote its benefits. Everyone should test for HIV because anyone can be affected by it – regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexuality, age or anything else – and it is always best to know your status.

“The number of new HIV diagnoses in straight people is higher than in gay and bisexual men for the first time in over a decade, marking a shift in the shape of the HIV epidemic in the UK. Gay and bisexual men continue to be disproportionately affected, so schedule a regular test.”

 

He concluded: “For anyone who’s sexually active who has never tested or not tested in a while National HIV Testing Week is the perfect opportunity to know your status and take charge of your sexual health.

“It’s never been easier to get an HIV test and to get a result quickly. You can order a free postal HIV test to do at home via or test in person at a sexual health clinic.”

Indeed, new figures released by the UK Health Security Agency revealed that straight people made up almost half (49 per cent) of all new diagnoses while gay and bisexual men accounted for 45 per cent.

The stats also show that 51 per cent of women, 55 per cent of heterosexual men and 66 per cent of those aged over 65 were diagnosed at a late stage in 2020. By comparison, just 29 per cent of gay and bisexual men were diagnosed late.

Experts are now warning that the true number of straight people contracting HIV is likely even higher because the coronavirus pandemic has led to a 33 per cent drop in heterosexuals being tested for the virus in sexual health services in 2020 – compared to a seven per cent drop in HIV testing for gay and bisexual men.

The news is concerning due to the fact straight people with HIV are significantly more likely to be diagnosed late, meaning they’re more likely to pass it on through sex.

In recent years, more straight women who are living with HIV in the UK have been speaking out to raise awareness.

Sue Hunter, who was diagnosed 15 years ago after she entered into a new relationship following a divorce, previously told PinkNews that she almost didn’t get tested because she had “massive misconceptions” about HIV.

She recalled how her family were shocked when she told them about her diagnosis because, like many others, they wrongly assumed it was a virus that only affected gay and bisexual men.

Hunter – working in collaboration with Terrence Higgins Trust – has been urging other straight people who are sexually active to get tested for HIV, especially as she says she had “no signs or symptoms” that she had contracted the virus before she got her diagnosis.

“Don’t sit on the sofa waiting for someone to knock on your door,” she stated. “I was lucky that the partner I had was a nice guy. He didn’t have to tell me – he did it because he was a nice guy.

“HIV does not discriminate. I’m a woman living with HIV for the last 15 years, and if you look at the statistics, a third of people living with HIV in the UK are women, and 52 per cent of people with the virus worldwide are women.

“The best thing you can do is know your status. If you’re sexually active and you haven’t had a HIV test for a while, go and get one.”

More: denise welch, HIV, HIV Testing Week, loose women

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