HIV rise blamed on belief in cure

A false belief among young HIV patients that the virus can be cured is fuelling a rise in infection levels, a specialist has claimed.

Dr Veerakathy Harindra says a quarter of his young HIV patients wrongly believe a cure has already been found.

This leads them to fail to take adequate precautions to prevent the spread of the virus, he said.

The Terrence Higgins Trust says the number of HIV infections has more than doubled in the last six years.

Dr Harindra, director at Portsmouth’s genito-urinary medicine (GUM) clinic, says between 20% and 25% of the young people he sees believe they can be cured of HIV.

Drug treatments which help manage HIV have led some people to wrongly believe it can actually be cured altogether, he says.

‘Widespread ignorance’

According to the Terrence Higgins Trust, a charity for HIV sufferers, the number of people with the virus has risen from 30,000 in 2001 to 70,000 this year.

Research by the charity in July suggested there was still widespread ignorance about HIV, particularly among young people.

The poll of 1,000 people found more than 20% of people aged 18 to 24 mistakenly thought there was a cure for HIV.

Among the same age group almost a quarter believed condoms had holes in them which let HIV through.

On Friday, international drug company Merck halted trials on an HIV vaccine that was regarded as one of the most promising in the fight against Aids.

Merck stopped testing the vaccine after it was judged to be ineffective.

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