Photo of David Cairns

David Cairns (Inverclyde, Labour)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. He represents an area that is not only largely rural but on the borders of Scotland and England, which brings me to the point that I mentioned at the very beginning. I imagine that many of his constituents will be accessing HIV services in Carlisle, for all sorts of reasons, but partly due to the stigma still associated with the condition. They do not want to access services in small villages and towns. Ultimately, we have to get to a situation in which there is no stigma, prejudice or discrimination and people can happily access GP services for a long-term managed condition, as people with diabetes, asthma and other long-term managed conditions can. Until such a time, we have to be sensitive to these issues.

Another reason why people are wary about always accessing services through GPs is the lack of awareness and understanding that many GPs demonstrate. Part of the reason why we have so many late diagnoses is that GPs do not pick up the telltale signs often enough. An alarming number of people had seen their GP on many occasions during the 12 months before they were eventually diagnosed as HIV-positive, and it was not picked up that they might have been HIV-positive. An astonishing number of people had been in-patients in the 12 months preceding their diagnosis; they were almost certainly HIV-positive while they were in hospital, but it was not picked up.

A lady recently got in touch with the all-party group-a middle-aged, professional, white lady-who had suffered serious recurrent health problems for two years and had seen numerous clinicians, including a GP on many occasions, before anyone thought to offer her an HIV test, which brings me back to the point that the hon. Member for Cardiff Central made. That lady was a textbook case: she had every symptom and yet her GP never thought to offer her an HIV test. That is clearly happening across the country, which explains why we have 22,000 people who are HIV-positive, but do not know it. It is not the case that none of them ever visits their doctor-they regularly visit their GPs, perhaps they even go into hospital as in-patients, and yet their status is not picked up. That is a public health disaster because the ability of those people to infect others is much greater than it would be if they were receiving the correct course of ARVs.

We need assurance that, within the restructuring, GPs will get very good guidelines and necessary training, and be encouraged to offer people an HIV test in the routine manner suggested earlier, to tackle undiagnosed HIV.

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