By Kevin Unitt 24/04 Updated: 24/04 14:50
A CHARITY launched by a Leamington doctor has extended praise and sympathy to its patron – the Aston Villa captain Stiliyan Petrov – after the popular player was diagnosed with leukaemia.
The 'Saving Lives' organisation was launched in November, in a bid to reduce the stigma of HIV and increase earlier testing and life-saving treatment, by Dr Steve Taylor, who lives in the town and is a HIV specialist based at Birmingham Heartlands Hospital.
To help increase awareness a host of football stars pledged their support, including Leamington-raised West Bromwich Albion goalkeeper Ben Foster and former Wolverhampton Wanderers' manager Mick McCarthy, with Bulgarian international Petrov even agreeing to be its patron.
Dr Taylor, shocked by the announcement of the player's leukaemia diagnosis, said: “It has been an absolute pleasure to work with Stiliyan.
"His support has been invaluable and provides a positive example for fans and other players alike.
"I wish him well in the months ahead. Knowing his character, I am confident he will fight and beat this condition.
"Saving Lives and all of its trustees, advocates and supporters would like to send their sincerest support, and best possible wishes, to Stiliyan and his family at this time."
Petrov, in attendance with his family at Saturday's game against Chelsea, was moved close to tears by applause that rang out for him in the 19th minute in acknowledgement of the shirt number he wears. Both teams had earlier warmed up for the match wearing T-shirts in support of the player.
Manager Alex McLeish revealed later that Petrov had even made an appearance in the dressing room ahead of kick off, insisting he would fight the disease and telling his team mates: “I'll beat this: I'll beat it.”
The 32-year-old has been at Villa Park since 2006 and captained the side since 2009.
The former Celtic midfielder has also made more than 100 appearances for his country.
The 'Saving Lives' organisation is aiming more people to overcome their fears and be tested quicker for the virus.
Dr Taylor explained: “One in four of those in the UK who have HIV are unaware they’re infected. This means they’re not receiving life-saving treatment, and could be infecting others without knowing.
“The earlier we diagnose HIV, the better we can treat it.”
Visit www.savinglivesuk.com for information.
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