HIV victims across the West Midlands have nearly quadrupled over the past seven years - but another third don’t even know they have the infection.
Experts today warned for Worlds AIDS Day that thousands of infected people remain unaware they are carrying the potentially fatal condition in Birmingham and its suburbs.
But Dr Steve Taylor, lead HIV services consultant for Birmingham, blamed GPs embarrassed by the stigma of the virus for not doing tests and allowing such high numbers to go without being diagnosed for years.
Latest figures show there are now 4,018 people living with HIV in the region, of which at least 1,400 are in Birmingham and 62 in Solihull. Heartlands Hospital has even treated 298 children infected with the virus since 2001.
Dr Taylor, based at Heartlands Hospital, in Bordesley Green, wants more doctors and nurses to offer testing.
“We need to be much more open - GPs, hospital doctors, everyone,” said Dr Taylor.
“Stereotypes and stigma are the reasons routine testing isn’t happening. GPs are too embarrassed to ask patients, but if we normalise it, more people will get diagnosed earlier.
“The real travesty is the number of times patients have been in contact with medical services for years without being offered an HIV test. A third of people diagnosed are in the advanced stages when it is too late to help them, so more than 500 people die of AIDS nationally.”
Dr Taylor added: “Too many doctors feel HIV is something special that only consultants should be testing for, but we are trying to change that so that all healthcare professionals are able to offer a test.”
Dr Taylor was today going out to universities and colleges giving out condoms and information on HIV.
Birmingham is today holding events to celebrate World Aids Day at the Positively Red festival, urging people to take a ‘fast test’ for HIV.
Art exhibitions and fashion shows will take place through the day with a candle vigil to commemorate lives lost to AIDS at 6.30pm from the Bullring to Birmingham Cathedral at 6.30pm, followed by a Positively Red Concert at Birmingham Town Hall at 7.30pm.
* For more information > www.sexualhealthbirmingham.co.uk