SEXUAL Health experts from Birmingham Heartlands & Solihull NHS Trust were out in force this week delivering the message to stay safe and use a condom to mark World Aids Day on Monday (December 1).
Specialist teams of staff from the trust which covers Solihull, Heartlands & Good Hope hospitals visited Solihull College last month in the run up to the event in a bid to urge young people to protect themselves from the HIV virus which causes Aids and possible death.
Staff also visited universities and nightclubs across the region last weekend, handing out condoms and information to young people and calling on them to practice safe sex.
Figures for Solihull show there are currently 62 people diagnosed with HIV(Human Immunodefiency Virus) with an additional 1,400 people with HIV in Birmingham.
HIV and Aids cause the body's immune system to break down making it more vulnerable to infections.
Nationally, some 80,000 people across the UK have HIV, a statistic which has trebled in the last decade, with 33 million people worldwide carrying the virus.
Medics at Heartlands Hospital have witnessed a big increase in cases of HIV with an estimated 250 patients being treated for the condition in 2001 compared to approximately 750 in 2008.
In Solihull itself, new diagnoses have been consistent over the past five years, with 5 new cases coming to light in 2003, 3 in 2005, 10 in 2006 and just 2 in 2007, according to figures supplied by organisation Sexual Health Birmingham.
Dr Steve Taylor, Lead HIV Services Consultant for Birmingham, based at Heartlands who was out and about in the region over the weekend trying to raise awareness about the virus, said the increase in cases of HIV at Heartlands Hospital was due to multiple factors.
These included a general increase in testing for HIV, people migrating from other parts of the country to the Midlands and from sub Saharan Africa, and more women being tested during ante-natal care and pregnancy.
He added he was seeing people with HIV people from all walks of life including men and women aged between 20 to 45 years of age who were homosexual and heterosexual, of African, Asian, European and UK origin.
He said: "The message for World Aids Day was to diagnose the undiagnosed. We have people coming forward who don't fit a stereotype and who don't realise they have the virus. They may present themselves very late to medical services when the chances of successful treatment are reduced."
He urged anyone with shingles, recurrent pneumonia, oral thrush, TB, hepatitis, chronic diarhoerra or unexplained weight loss to go to their GP and have a HIV test or visit a local sexual health clinic to have one.