Expert calls for routine HIV tests to avoid late diagnosis
ONE OF the State’s leading experts on HIV/Aids has said testing for the condition should be a matter of routine.
Figures from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre showed two-thirds of the 320 people who were diagnosed with HIV last year presented late with the illness.
Mater hospital infectious disease consultant Dr Jack Lambert said 90 per cent of these people had no way of knowing they had the disease as symptoms had not manifested themselves to a sufficient extent.
Symptoms which do manifest themselves are large-scale infections and weight loss.
Dr Lambert said a HIV test should be as routine as a cholesterol test, but that many people were reluctant to have it done because of the stigma involved and because of their fear of the disease.
He said public clinics carry out such tests free and GPs will perform them for the cost of a visit, and the results are returned in a week.
Dr Lambert stressed HIV/Aids was no longer the death sentence it once was. There are 35 anti-retroviral drugs to treat the disease.
He said those persons diagnosed early have the same average life expectancy as the rest of the population.
However, those who present late can often have seriously compromised their immune system, and their condition becomes a chronic illness.
Figures show the “CD4 count” which is used to measure the number of white blood cells in those affected showed 214 of the 320 diagnosed presented with late-stage infection, while 32.7 per cent of the 214 were severely immune-compromised.
The proportion of those diagnosed late was highest among intravenous drug users and heterosexual males.
To mark Irish Aids Day 2012 on Friday, Open Heart House (Dublin), the Sexual Health Centre (Cork), Aids West (Galway) and Dublin Aids Alliance (Dublin) and the Red Ribbon Project (Limerick) will launch the Don’t Guess, Get Tested! campaign which aims to raise awareness of the alarming number of late presenters with HIV in Ireland and to encourage early HIV testing, with the aim of reducing the number of late presenters of HIV in 2012.