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Survey: No HIV Testing for 3/4 of British Women

A new survey carried out by the MAC AIDS Fund shows three-quarters of women in Britain are unaware of their HIV status, and the organization says it's a trend found around the world.

Women in Britain are not getting tested for HIV because, according to the survey, they don't think they are at risk.

American singer Cyndi Lauper is a spokesperson for MAC's campaign to support people with HIV and AIDS.

Speaking in London she told VOA that women around the world need to know that everyone is at risk of contracting HIV, even women with only one sexual partner.

"In the UK, you know, 76 percent of women are not tested - they haven't tested themselves," she noted. "And women in monogamous, supposedly monogamous, relationships don't test."

1,000 women were surveyed for the poll. Over 80 percent said they had sex without using a condom. Over 60 percent of those women said it was because they were in an exclusive sexual relationship.

Lauper says women have to be tested regularly so that the disease can be caught early on.

"If you don't know you don't have early intervention. And the earlier the interventions, the earlier you find out, the better off you are," she added.

HIV progresses faster in women than men with similar levels of HIV in their blood. This, experts say, makes it especially important that women are diagnosed early on.

Lauper was joined in London by a group of HIV-positive women from the national AIDS charity Positively Women.

Silvia Petretti says she was shocked when she found out she had HIV.

"This has always been publicized as the other people disease - HIV is something that's happening in Africa, it's happening to gay men, it's happening to drug users… So HIV is something that is happening there to somebody in a far away country," she explained.

Nancy Mahon is executive director of the MAC AIDS Fund. She says many women still don't feel like they have the power to negotiate safe sex.

But, she says, condoms are crucial in the fight against HIV.

"In seat belt safety, we know people are going to speed and one of the ways that we've reduced traffic deaths is we've added seat belts," noted Mahon. "So condoms are the seat belts of AIDS."

According to the Britain-based HIV Charity the Terence Higgins Trust, over 7,000 people were diagnosed with HIV in the UK in 2008, that's almost three times the number a decade ago.