The West of Cornwall Primary Care Trust launched an appeal on Friday to people in the St Ives area of Cornwall to come forward for tests after several cases were confirmed. A dedicated helpline has been inundated with concerned callers since then.
The NHS have said that more than 200 people have contacted a telephone helpline set up in the wake of an HIV scare in St Ives. The confidential line (0845 850 9850) was set up last week by the local health authority after a sudden rise of up to 10 cases.
The exact numbers of cases have not yet been revealed, but investigations have suggested the virus may have been acquired at any time over the last six to eight years. Officials have asked anyone who has had unprotected sex over the last eight years to get checked up. A special clinic has been set up to test for the virus that can lead to Aids. This appeal has been made because it would not be possible to identify and trace all of the previous sexual partners of the individuals concerned.
A spokesperson for the Trust said the overwhelming feeling of those that have so far come forward for the test is that though the news of a possible HIV risk in St Ives was a shock initially, they are very glad that they have tested and are also encouraging their friends to test.
The Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust said anyone contacting the helpline would not be asked for identification and the service was free and strictly confidential and would not go up on his or her hospital or GP records. The disease is believed to have spread through sexual relationships involving heterosexual adults aged between 20 and 50 years old.
The HIV virus damages the immune system, which is the body's defence against disease. There is no cure, but modern drugs can now slow down the effects of the virus.