People showing the symptoms of early-stage HIV infection are routinely being misdiagnosed by doctors, according to a report by the National AIDS Trust.
NAT, the UK’s leading independent policy and campaigning charity on HIV and AIDS, has found that in one Brighton study, almost half of those who sought medical advice for what eventually turned out to be HIV symptoms were not diagnosed correctly.
Symptoms of early-stage HIV include sore throat, fever and rash and will show within two to six weeks of infection in 70-90 per cent of cases.
The report also found that 30-50 per cent of new HIV infections are thought to be passed on by people in the early stage of infection, making the need to catch new cases early in order to prevent the spread of HIV a priority.
However, the study found that doctors and other healthcare professionals were commonly dismissing these symptoms as signs of common viral infections, with comments such as: “Probably glandular fever” or “Come back in two weeks if you’re not feeling better.”
NAT argues that while these symptoms may seem innocuous, coupled with recent risky behaviour, they should suggest possible HIV infection and the need for a HIV test.
Chief Executive Deborah Jack said: “It is very worrying that GPs and other healthcare professionals are often missing the signs and symptoms of HIV infection.
“Prevention campaigns currently fail to communicate to individuals the symptoms of early HIV infection.
“Whilst it is important to say not everybody will have such symptoms, in the majority that do it is a one-off opportunity to diagnosis early. Diagnosing HIV at this early stage could have a significant impact on reducing HIV infections in the UK.
“Our advice is simple; if you suspect you may have been infected with HIV seek medical advice immediately. Do not wait.”
HIV testing has seen great advances in recent years. The majority of cases can now be diagnosed from 12 days after infection.
However, the figures for HIV infection rates in the UK remain high. Over 80,000 people live with HIV.
A third of people with HIV are not diagnosed, and a third of those that are diagnosed are diagnosed late.
The report calls for the latest testing methods to be used in all labs.