Toowoomba Hospital director of public health Dr John Hooper (left) and south-west Queensland co-ordinator for HIV Bill Rutkin say HIV is no longer a death sentence.
Toowoomba Hospital director of public health Dr John Hooper (left) and south-west Queensland co-ordinator for HIV Bill Rutkin say HIV is no longer a death sentence. Dave Noonan

AIDS testing still a priority

REPORTED cases of HIV are increasing in Queensland but two Darling Downs experts say the virus is no longer the death sentence it was once considered to be.

South-west Queensland co-ordinator for HIV Bill Rutkin and Toowoomba Hospital director of public health Dr John Hooper are using today's World AIDS Day to push the message that AIDS is now a life-long manageable infection.

Dr Hooper said the real concern in Toowoomba was for middle-aged men who were diagnosed with the disease well after they had been infected.

"There is potential for these men to have had partners who didn't know it," Dr Hooper said.

"There is a pool of infection locally.

"We want to get people tested."

He said there were about 60 HIV-positive patients from around the region using Toowoomba health services.

Mr Rutkin said most of the new HIV notifications were among men who had sex with men.

"In non-metro areas, there is evidence that these men don't see themselves as gay.

"They may be married or may have been married.

"When they do that, some of them have been putting themselves at extreme risk and have contracted (HIV)."

Dr Hooper said those HIV patients who thoroughly managed their condition rarely progressed to having AIDS.

"If you are diagnosed early, you can expect to shorten your lifespan by no more than five years."

A team will be handing out World AIDS Day ribbons at a stall in the Bell St Mall from 8.30am until 4.30pm today.

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