Prevention – “Doctors still do not actively offer HIV testing”

Martin Winkelheide: Tomorrow the 17th European AIDS Conference begins in Basel. One focus there is the development in Eastern Europe. There has been a dramatic increase in HIV infections for years, and the HIV epidemic has developed a special dynamic there. In Germany, the situation is less dramatic, but people are still infected with the HIV virus, every year there are about 3,000. More than 10,000 people, say estimates, do not know that they carry the virus. Again and again it happens that people only learn about their infection when they are already seriously ill.

Clara Lehmann heads the Infectious Disease Clinic at the Department of Internal Medicine I at the University Hospital in Cologne and she's on the phone. Good day, Mrs. Doctor Lehmann!

Clara Lehmann: Good day!

Winkelheide: It is said that 86,000 to 90,000 people in Germany live with HIV. More than 10,000 do not know that they are infected. How can that be?

Lehmann: This is certainly because people just do not get enough HIV testing. This is partly due to the patient or to the people themselves, but also to the doctors. Many people do not go to the test, because they mistakenly associate HIV with serious illness and death, and they also have a very high fear of exclusion, so they do not even go to testing for HIV, which is very, very good today that can also handle. On the other hand, doctors are still not actively offering HIV testing because HIV is still associated with promiscuity in the eyes of doctors. And that is such an interplay between patient and doctor.

“Reduce infection rates”

Winkelheide: Well, the doctor does not like to ask for it, so to speak.

Lehmann: Exactly! That's also unpleasant for him, that's something that people do not like to talk about.

Winkelheide: But what would be a positive picture. I mean, HIV can be treated quite well in the meantime, you could also say, yes, an AIDS test, this is nothing else than the at least regular blood pressure measurement – just a laboratory value, done.

Lehmann: Exactly. But you have just said AIDS test because people think HIV equals …

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