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Huge rise in tests for HIV.

Byline: SARAH JUDD

THE number of people being tested for HIV has increased by more than 62% at one Teesside charity's drop-in clinics.

Teesside Positive Action, which has clinics in Middlesbrough and Stockton, tested 235 people for HIV between April 2009 March 2010.

Of these, two cases were "reactive" and later confirmed by hospital tests as HIV positive.

However, since April 2010, the clinic have seen 376 people come in for the HIV strip test, which involves taking a pinprick of blood from the index finger, an increase of 62.5% on the previous year.

Of the latest 376 to have the highly accurate HIV antibody and antigen test, four had a "reactive" result and were later confirmed in hospital as being HIV positive.

The four diagnosed as HIV positive represent a 100% increase on HIV positive cases diagnosed in the previous year.

The figures come as provisional data from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) showed, while cases of the virus decreased by 7.2% in the UK last year, cases across the North-east rose by 4.4%.

Chris McCormack, pictured, a HIV support worker based in Baker Street, Middlesbrough, aims to encourage even more people who may have put themselves at risk of HIV to get tested.

He said: "That is a big increase and we want to really keep the momentum going and get as many people as possible tested.

"In the UK, at least 26% of people who are HIV positive don't know that they have got it.

"These are the people we want to catch because they are the ones who are passing it on."

Although HIV cannot be cured, the sooner it is detected, the quicker it can be treated - and the better the long-term outcome for the individual.

Teesside Positive Action, which recently opened a satellite clinic in Stockton, offers a 20-minute service, with any "reactive" results being referred to James Cook University Hospital's department of infection and travel medicine for further testing.

The charity also offers pre-test counselling, emotional and practical support, advocacy and non-judgmental and realistic preventative advice. * For free, confidential advice call Teesside Positive Action's 24-hour helpline on 01642 254598.
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Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Apr 9, 2011
Words:359
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