Nearly half of all new cases of HIV in the North East were diagnosed late or very late in 2011.
Sean Murphy from the charity Body Positive North East said early detection rates are low because people are afraid to go for tests - but if the virus is caught early, they have nothing to fear.
With World Aids day just a couple of days away, figures have been published showing that the number of people diagnosed as HIV positive fell by 14 per cent in the North East last year.
The region has one of the lowest rates of the virus in the country, with 127 new diagnoses of HIV in the past year.
However, almost half of all new cases were diagnosed late or very late - and left untreated, HIV can have serious consequences.
The number of people currently living with the disease in the UK is around 96,000 - with nearly 1400 of those people living in the North East.