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GPs urged to test for early HIV infection

By Lilian Anekwe

GPs should be aware of a ‘triad' of symptoms that are commonly missed in patients with early HIV infections – fuelling the rise in infection rate - researchers advise.

A study by Dr Martin Fisher, a consultant in genito-urinary medicine at Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals, found GPs missed HIV much more often than GUM clinics. Only 108 people diagnosed with HIV, just one of 13 presenting to a GUM clinic was mis-diagnosed, compared with 15 of 20 people presenting in general practice with symptoms.

And a report published by the National AIDS Trust documents a cases of people displaying symptoms of early-stage HIV infection failing to be offered HIV tests, or HIV being misdiagnosed by GPs as glandular fever or other viral illnesses.

Symptoms of early-stage HIV infection are most frequently sore throat, fever and a rash occurring together, usually between two and six weeks of infection.

As many as nine in every 10 individuals with HIV will show symptoms during this early stage, after which symptoms may not appear again, but during which time an estimated 30-50% of new HIV infections are passed on by people unaware of their condition.

Dr Christian Jessen, a GP specialising in sexual health medicine and a spokesperson for the National AIDS trust, said: ‘I have seen many cases of HIV which have been missed on many other occasions, despite all the clues to the diagnosis being present.

‘Doctors need to always be alive to the possibility that the person in front of them may have HIV, and that it is a now a general medical condition, not a specialist one.'

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