HIV problem soaring says consultant
Dec 1 2007 by Anne-Marie Bradley, Huddersfield Daily Examiner
CASES of HIV are soaring in Huddersfield.
The number of people needing HIV care has risen by a fifth across the Yorkshire region since 2005.
In Huddersfield, sexual health doctors say cases have been soaring since the beginning of the decade.
Dr Lindsay Short, consultant in genito-urinary medicine (GUM) at Huddersfield’s Princess Royal Health Centre, said there were now almost 200 HIV patients on the clinic’s books.
There were just 30 when she started work there in 2001.
Dr Short added: “We have seen an increase year on year.
“One of the main reasons is that there have been delays in diagnosis because some people not perceived to be at risk – such as those in their 40s and 50s – have been.
“There is a reluctance among health professionals to raise doing HIV tests. We are trying to encourage changes so doctors consider a test early on.”
HIV – human immunodeficiency virus – attacks the infection-fighting cells of the immune system.
Over time, the immune system weakens and become unable to defend the body against bacteria, viruses and germs, leaving the patient open to a range of infections.
HIV can eventually lead to Aids (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome).
Dr Short said denial was also one of the factors preventing people undergoing the simple blood test for HIV.
She said: “People think it is always something that happens to other people.
“Certainly within the gay community many think it is something that only affects men over 35 and is therefore not something to be concerned about.
“It is good for everyone to know what their HIV status is. They shouldn’t be afraid of taking the test.”
Dr Short blamed stark images used to raise awareness of HIV and Aids in the 1980s for frightening people about the tragic impact of the disease. But she assured people that developments in treating HIV had dramatically improved, offering patients a more positive outlook.
She said: “The messages used were all doom and dismal.
“It is a positive thing to know, because then we can prevent you from becoming ill.
“People with HIV can live a normal lifetime and can even go on to have children.
“Not all need treatment, depending on how well their immune system is coping.”
All pregnant women and blood donors are now routinely tested for HIV.
Anyone wanting a test can either visit their GP or the GUM clinic at Princess Royal centre on Greenhead Road.