There could be people living in the Manawatu who are unaware they have HIV.

After the recent death of 48-year-old Tonya Booker, Positive women Inc. has launched a nationwide appeal urging women to get tested for HIV.

Ms Booker spent more than two years suffering from various conditions, but was never offered the test. The campaign also seeks to bring attention to medical professionals about the importance of offering such tests.

National coordinator Jane Bruning said dying as a result of HIV in this day and age was unacceptable.


"Women can get HIV too, but they are not being offered an HIV test as part of routine diagnostic processes. The main reason is because they are not considered to be an at-risk group."

The family of Ms Booker said they felt let down by the medical profession.

"It was beyond belief that we would lose our daughter to HIV," Tonya's mother Carolyn said. "The health system let Tonya down at every stage. By the time an HIV test was finally done, it was too late and we had to watch her die eight days later."

Ms Booker had seven siblings, a partner and an eight-year-old daughter.

"She had carried the virus for 12 years and had never once been tested," Carolyn said. "Her death has left a huge hole in our lives."

Those considered most at risk in New Zealand are gay men.

"Anyone who is considered sick and presenting with unexplained symptoms needs to be offered an HIV test," Ms Bruning said.

"But better yet, we encourage women to take charge and take the test."