New indicator diseases reveal hidden HIV
HIV in Europe: Today, heterosexuals in Europe are at particular risk of carrying HIV for so long that they
remain undiagnosed until their immune system starts to fail and they become ill. An international study under the leadership of
the HIV in Europe initiative has now revealed that a number of diseases, including herpes zoster and certain forms of cancer,
should be on the list of indicators for having HIV - and thus serve to prompt health care professionals to suggest an
HIV-test to their patients. The new results and guidelines are to be debated at a major international HIV conference
in Copenhagen on 19th-20th March.
"At the HIV in Europe conference we will be discussing how to disseminate knowledge of the new HIV indicator diseases
to non-HIV doctors and health care professionals across Europe," says Jens Lundgren, Co-chair of the HIV in Europe initiative.
Too many people with HIV remain undiagnosed
Half of all people living with HIV are diagnosed very late in the course of their chronic HIV infection. People infected
through heterosexual transmission now comprise 42 per cent of these late presenters, as a study of 90,000 Europeans tested HIV positive
since 2.000 shows.
UNAIDS has estimated that 2,5 million Europeans carry an HIV infection, and as many as 900 000 of these, are still unaware
of this. Inside EU the numbers are 800.000 infected with 250.000 undiagnosed.
co-chair of the HIV in Europe initiative, Director of Aids Funds and Soa AIDS Nederland suggests that since the HIV/AIDS issue is no
longer high on the agenda in many European countries, and since people have to actively choose to be HIV-tested, many perhaps no
longer consider going for a test if they have had unsafe sex.
However, the sooner HIV-infected individuals receive a diagnosis and start therapy, the greater are their chances of
survival and their quality of life. And new research also shows therapy lowers the risk of passing the infection on to someone else.
"The current situation shows that we need more effective testing strategies and guidelines," Ton Coenen
continues. "More than 300 doctors, health care professionals, NGOs and health politicians from 40 European countries will
be discussing this need at the conference on 19th and 20th of March, so we have the ideal forum for it."
Eight new HIV indicator diseases should warrant an HIV-test
"We already have a list of Aids defining diseases, the vast majority of which indicate a weak immune system. This is
a symptom of HIV and should lead to an immediate HIV test," Professor Lundgren explains. "We nned to find people living with
HIV sooner than is currently the case, but to do so requires that doctors and other health care professionals offer tests to people
presenting with diseases indicative of a hidden and undiagnosed HIV infection earlier in the course of the disease."
The HIV in Europe initiative took up this challenge in 2009 and started the HIDES study (HIV Indicator Diseases Across
Europe), which investigated eight new diseases and how often they proved to be signs of an undiagnosed HIV infection among the 3588
patients in the study.
"We could see that if an adult had a sexually transmitted infection, malignant lymphoma, cervical or anal
cancer/dysplasia, herpes zoster, hepatitis B or C, ongoing mononucleosis-like illness, inexplicable, persistent decline in
the number of circulating white blood cells, or seborrheic dermatitis/exanthema, the risk of HIV infection was so high
that it would be cost-effectiveness for society to routinely offer them a test," Professor Lundgren says. He
also emphasises that the new indicator diseases do not necessarily mean that the patient has HIV.
"But the incidence of HIV is greater for these eight indicator diseases and they should encourage health care
professionals to offer the patient an HIV test. Draft guidelines on how to ensure this throughout Europe are one of the topics
we need to debate and decide on, before they can be implemented."
Source: University Of Copenhagen
Professor Jens Lundgren
Copenhagen HIV Programme (CHIP)
University of Copenhagen
Facultuy of Health and Medical Sciences
Phone: +45 35 45 57 57
Mobile: +45 40 87 93 03
"Reproduced with permission - University Of Copenhagen"
University Of Copenhagen