Altering attitudes of fear about HIV is a slow process

MAKING people understand there is nothing to fear from HIV is not easy.

Dr David Smith, who treats people with HIV across the Lismore, Grafton and Coffs Harbour regions, says there is nothing to be feared from the disease.

"We're getting people testing and getting onto treatment and effective treatment is a major way of preventing infection," the Northern NSW Local Health District Sexual Health medical director said.

"That cannot be emphasised too much."

Treatment of the illness is vastly different to when it first appeared in Australia in the early 1980s.

Back then, patients were prescribed a cocktail of medicines and often had to come to terms with knowing they would die from AIDS-related complications.

Today, people with HIV are prescribed anti-retroviral therapy that keeps them healthy and makes it almost impossible to pass the disease on.

HIV is not AIDS and, with modern treatment, may not develop into AIDS. With treatment, people with HIV can live long and effectively normal lives.