PEOPLE in York are being encouraged to take a free HIV test after health bosses revealed that a quarter of people with the disease did not realise they had it.

Sexual health experts are using National HIV Testing Week, which begins on Friday, to dispel the myth that HIV is not a problem in York or North Yorkshire and are now encouraging everyone to take a free test.

Tom Doyle, chief executive of Yorkshire sexual health organisation MESMAC, said: “Sometimes people living in a nice city with a nice rural hinterland think HIV is not a problem.

“One-in-four people with HIV don’t actually know they have it but they account for 75 per cent of new transmissions.

‘‘Once people are on treatment they actually become less infectious.

Mr Doyle said heterosexual infection had now overtaken homosexual cases and that his organisation was also seeing a rise in people over 50 contracting the disease.

He said: “That’s maybe because of long-term relationships coming to an end and also the advent of Viagra. They may have also missed out on sex education at school.”

Tina Ramsey, one of the senior sisters carrying out the tests at clinics throughout the region, said: “It’s a very simple test – people come along and have a finger-prick test.

‘‘A small amount of blood is then put into a device a little like a pregnancy test.

‘‘A small amount of liquid is then applied and we have a result in 30 minutes.”

She explained that the test is not definitive but will give an indication as to whether further tests are required.

Of most serious concern to sexual health experts in the region is that latest regional figures show a 100 per cent increase on the 199 cases diagnosed in the region in 2001, compared with a UK-wide increase of 30 per cent for the same period.

The Yorkshire and the Humber region has seen the third highest proportional increase among the ten English regions of newly diagnosed cases since 2001.

To find out where you can be tested, visit or go to the national clinic finder at Telephone bookings can be made on 01904 721111.