THE number of people living with HIV and Aids in Sheffield has risen to around 1,000 – and the stigma surrounding the disease is as bad as ever, say health professionals.
Despite huge improvements in medical treatment, the number of HIV patients in the city has rocketed from 450 six years ago to nearly 800 today.
And statisticians think another 200 are living in the city with the disease undiagnosed.
As people prepared to gather in the city centre this evening to mark Worlds Aids Day, health bosses warned the stigma surrounding the disease means people are not seeking treatment.
Steve Slack, director of the Sheffield Centre for HIV and Sexual Health, said even doctors are worried about bringing up the topic because they do not want to offend their patients.
Mr Slack told The Star: “HIV is a treatable infection – but there are still 500 people dying every year in this country from the disease.
“The earlier HIV is diagnosed, the more effective treatment is, so it is really important that people get tested.
“But we can’t underestimate people’s fear of being diagnosed – and we can’t underestimate the stigma that is still associated with HIV.
“Sometimes even professionals don’t mention it to patients because they are worried about offending them.”
Mr Slack said one of the problems is lack of awareness.
“Many people think HIV has gone away. There is less awareness than 30 years ago when HIV was first identified.”
Campaigners are holding a candlelit vigil at Sheffield’s Winter Garden at 5.30 tonight to mark World Aids Day.