Changing perceptions of HIV an ongoing process

MAKING people understand there is nothing to fear from HIV is not easy.

Clinic 87 director Dr Kuong Taing said confusion about HIV still existed.

"There will be a time when people can live without fear," Dr Taing said.

"It's much better now than early in HIV's history but many people will go to extremes to ensure others don't know they are HIV positive."

Treatment of the illness is vastly different to when it first appeared in Australia in the early 1980s.

Back then, patients were prescribed a cocktail of medicines and often had to come to terms with knowing they would die from AIDS-related complications.

Today, people with HIV are prescribed antiretroviral therapy that keeps them healthy and makes it almost impossible to pass the disease on.

HIV is not AIDS and with modern treatment may not develop into AIDS. With treatment, people with HIV can live long and effectively normal lives.

HIV Foundation Queensland chairman Dr Darren Russell said bringing about a change in community perceptions about the disease was a work in progress.

"HIV still carries a lot of stigma and that is unfortunate," Dr Russell said.

"We're working very hard to tackle that and groups... are working hard to address that stigma."

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