Gay men ‘unaware of HIV symptoms’

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Sixty per cent of gay men are unaware of the symptoms of early HIV infection, a large-scale survey has found.

According to the research by National AIDS Trust, most of the men surveyed could not name the ‘triad’ of a sore throat, rash and fever as the most common symptoms occurring together.

Between 70 and 90 per cent of people experience symptoms soon after HIV infection but fewer than one in ten respondents were aware of this.

While 31 per cent said they would go to the doctor if they experienced the symptoms, 28 per cent said they would wait to see if the symptoms go away.

NAT says the findings are worrying because early detection of HIV means the best chances for health in future.

Chief executive Deborah Jack said: “Such a high proportion of gay men incorrectly believing there are no symptoms of HIV is not only extremely worrying, it also means there are huge opportunities being missed to diagnose HIV early.

“Whilst routine testing will always be extremely important, we must ensure we are maximising all chances to diagnose HIV as soon as possible and spotting the early signs is a big part of this.”

She added: “Early HIV diagnosis has significant benefits to both individual and public health. Not only does it reduce the risk of serious HIV-related illnesses, new research has shown it could have huge life-long benefits. Early diagnosis also makes it less likely a person will pass HIV on to others as they’ll be aware of the necessary steps to prevent this occurring.”

NAT worked with Gaydar to carry out the survey of 8,561 men in March and April of this year.

Seventy-six per cent of respondents had had an HIV test and 16 per cent of respondents were HIV positive.