‘Significant proportion’ of HIV positive patients silent
New research shows a “significant proportion” of HIV positive patients may not be telling NHS staff about it.
This could have implications for the true number of HIV infections in the population, according to a study published in the BMJ owned journal, Sexually Transmitted Infections.
Patients could ‘miss out’
“This is the first published objective evidence that non-disclosure of HIV status as a phenomenon exists in patients attending sexual health clinics in the UK,” said lead author Dr Ann Sullivan.
Dr Sullivan, from Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, said in the accompanying podcast that patients who don’t reveal their HIV status could miss out on the chance to be treated more “holistically”.
The researchers compared all HIV positive samples with clinic records to discover whether patients were taking antiretroviral drugs.
Of the 130 samples analysed, 28 were from patients who were not known to be HIV positive before they arrived at the clinic.
Ten had been tested for HIV at their clinic visit, and the remaining 18 did not accept an HIV test.
Yet more than 70% of the samples had very low viral loads, which indicated successful drug treatment to the researchers.
Only eight samples were of sufficient volume to officially test for antiretroviral drugs.
Undiagnosed HIV needs ‘further study’
Current statistics show 25% of HIV positive people in the UK are unaware they are infected.
Researchers from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) and Chelsea and Westminster Hospital concluded that the findings should be “extrapolated to other clinics”.
“Given the high proportion of individuals classified as non-disclosing within this study, the extent to which these findings can be extrapolated to other clinics, and the degree to which they may influence estimates of the proportion of undiagnosed HIV in the community, warrants further study,” they said.