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'Late diagnosis results in blindness'

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

An awareness campaign by Positive Women Inc. is being relaunched this July to promote HIV testing of women in New Zealand. Heather Sangster Smith is to be the face of the "Women Can Get HIV Too" Campaign.

In March 2014, Heather was admitted to hospital and put into isolation as the doctors thought she had the flu. Many tests were carried out, but Heather’s condition worsened. Finally, an HIV test was done and on Day 8 she was informed the test was positive.

Because of the late diagnosis, recovery was complicated, and Heather was in hospital for the following 2 months. She was unable to walk without assistance, lost most of her eyesight and her body was shutting down. It took 3 years for her to feel well but she still lives with permanent disabilities including being legally blind.

"This campaign highlights the importance of HIV testing for women, especially when health practitioners find it difficult to make a diagnosis" says Jane Bruning, National Coordinator of Positive Women Inc. "In New Zealand, women are suffering unnecessarily, and some are dying, as they are not perceived to be at risk and subsequently not offered an HIV test".

Heather has agreed to share her story to raise awareness of how HIV can affect anyone - and hopes her story may spare another woman a similar tragedy.

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