The benefits of early HIV diagnosis

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People living with diagnosed HIV in the UK can expect a near-normal life expectancy when diagnosed as early as possible.

Delayed diagnosis

Therefore, with nearly a third of HIV cases in the UK going undiagnosed at the time, the UK National Guidelines for HIV Testing were introduced in September 2008.

The aim of the guidelines was to encourage healthcare professionals to consider HIV as an alternative diagnosis and to increase HIV testing in primary and acute health care settings.

Many of the symptoms are non specific and relatively mild and despite the guidance referring to this and the drive to increase awareness and testing, many doctors still fail to recognise symptoms of HIV infection. Therefore there are still low levels of HIV testing in the UK.

Although HIV is no longer the ‘death sentence’ that it once was, survival is dependent upon early diagnosis. With early diagnosis HIV is a manageable disease with a normal life expectancy, but unfortunately, those people who are diagnosed late are less likely to respond to treatment and have a ‘tenfold’ increased risk of death.

A late diagnosis also means that many other people may have been infected and so perpetuating the cycle.

Delay in diagnosing HIV can have catastrophic consequences impacting upon not only the individual but the whole family, financially, physically and emotionally.

This article was written by Helen Donaghy, Medical Negligence Team.

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