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Acute presentations of HIV are still missed in low prevalence areas
  1. L Ratcliffe1,
  2. S Thomas1,
  3. N J Beeching1,2,
  4. P A Phillips-Howard3,
  5. M Taegtmeyer2
  1. 1Tropical and Infectious Disease Unit, Royal Liverpool University Hospital, Liverpool, UK
  2. 2Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Pembroke Place, Liverpool, UK
  3. 3Centre for Public Health, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Miriam Taegtmeyer, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Pembroke Place, Liverpool L3 5QA, UK; m.taegtmeyer{at}


Objectives To evaluate missed opportunities and delays in the diagnosis of HIV in a low prevalence setting over a 24 year period.

Methods Patients with acute presentations of HIV were included in a retrospective note based review. Data were compared from acute presentations in 1985–2001 (88/241 new patients) with 2005–2007 (99/136 new patients). The number of recorded clinical and laboratory clues to infection and subsequent time delays to diagnosis of HIV were evaluated.

Results The findings reflect the shifting demographics of HIV in the UK over the past two decades, exemplified by an eightfold increase in tuberculosis at presentation. Despite recording clinical stigmata of HIV (clues) in the notes, the number of missed clues increased, and many clinicians failed to request HIV testing. The median delay between presentation and diagnosis reduced from 5 to 1 day (p<0.001), and mortality dropped from 14% to 4% among patients presenting with acute symptoms. However, there was still a delay of more than 30 days before diagnosis for almost one in five patients.

Conclusions Despite some improvement and better awareness, there are still significant delays before hospital doctors consider the diagnosis of HIV for patients in low prevalence areas, even among some patient groups with high risk. Hospitals should consider moving to opt-out routine HIV testing of all medical admissions.

  • HIV testing
  • generalists
  • missed opportunities
  • HIV & AIDS

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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