A quarter of people with HIV have no idea they're infected – and are unwittingly passing it on
These people are responsible for passing on up to 75 per cent of new cases, a leading expert claims Straight men are the least likely to be testedMany people embarrassed to admit they have condition, preventing them from getting appropriate treament
00:22 GMT, 14 February 2013
08:05 GMT, 14 February 2013
A quarter of people who are HIV positive have no idea they are infected – and pass on up to 75 per cent of new cases, research shows.
Straight men are the least likely to be tested, said Dr Ann Sullivan, from the Sexual Health Centre at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.
That 25 per cent are believed to account for up to three quarters of passed on transmissions, putting others at risk.
A quarter of people with HIV (pictured) have no idea they are infected
Those who are diagnosed late accounted for nearly a third of all AIDS deaths last year, as well as costing the NHS far more than those who get tested early.
Dr Sullivan, consultant physician in HIV at the hospital and an honorary lecturer at Imperial College, said many people still believe HIV is a 'death sentence', despite advances in treatment.
She said: 'Those who don't know they are infected are responsible for between 50 and 75 per cent of new infections. That is a hugely disproportional number of people passing on HIV.
'It is not likely cancer, where people who have it are seen as blameless. There is still a lot of stigma particularly among heterosexual men, and women.
'This group do not think they are at risk, so are more likely to present later, but if you have sex without protection you should have a test.
'We need another big campaign because
there is a lack of knowledge. People remember those scary ads from the
80s with the tombstone. That was right for the time, but things have
moved on. Aids is not a death sentence, or indeed is it anything to be
Best to get tested: Dr Sullivan says those who don't know they are infected are responsible for up to 75 per cent of new infections
'With new treatments and technologies, there is only around a five or ten year difference in life expectancy. People with HIV go to work, they have children, they lead very normal lives.'
Dr Sullivan has spoken out after her study into HIV, published in the online journal Sexually Transmitted Infections, revealed many HIV patients were not revealing their illness to NHS staff.
She said when attending sexual health clinic many did not come clean about their illness for fear of being 'judged', but said they could be missing out on vital treatment.
Dr Sullivan said: 'Given the high proportion of individuals classified within this study as non-disclosing, the extent to which these findings can be extrapolated to other clinics, and the degree to which they may influence estimates of the proportion of undiagnosed HIV in the community, warrants further study.
'The reasons why they don't come clean about their HIV status may be that they don't want to be “judged”, given that they have come to the clinic with another infection, which implies they are indulging in risky sexual behaviour.
'But by not revealing their HIV status, they could be missing out on the chance to be treated more holistically and discuss other aspects of their health which might be affected by HIV.'