The number of HIV patients in the West Midlands are rising each year, with 3,700 people now living with the virus, new figures show.
The numbers have surged by more than five times in the past nine years.
The Health Protection Agency released latest numbers for 2008 to coincide with World Aids Day today.
Last year’s figures show that 3,732 patients have been diagnosed, of which 78 were children aged under 14, up from 3,261 the previous year.
Numbers of HIV in pregnant women in the West Midlands now exceeds one in 1,000 pregnancies and can be as high as three in 1,000 in inner-city areas.
But the majority of cases - 2,148 people or 61 per cent - caught HIV through heterosexual sex.
Dr Steve Taylor, lead HIV consultant for Birmingham Heartlands Hospital, said: “HIV is not going away and numbers in the West Midlands continue to rise.
“Regular and early testing saves lives, so testing, testing, testing is the message for this year’s World Aids Day.
“A quarter of deaths in the UK are due to late HIV diagnosis. Don’t die of ignorance, if you have put yourself at risk by having unprotected sex, just get tested as there is effective treatment available for those infected.”
HIV Nurse Tendai Zvidi, from Heartlands Hospital, knows only to well the devastating effect of the virus as two of her sisters were killed by HIV in Zimbabwe aged 23 and 24.
“In Zimbabwe, most households have a relative who has died from HIV but in the UK the medication is better and people can live for a while,” she said. “Long done are the days of people with an imminent death sentence.
“I have worked for 20 years with HIV patients but I still find it difficult seeing children with it. It wasn’t their choice, they got it from their parents. For adults, HIV can be avoided though, if they have safe sex and protect themselves.”
A quarter of all deaths are due to late diagnosis but by those who find out early and get treated can live a healthy life for the next 30 or more years.
For more information, visit www.worldaidsdaybirmingham.org.uk or www.sexualhealthbirmingham.co.uk