A number of new diseases should be included on the list of risk indicators for persons suspected of carrying the virus, says an European HIV initiative.
HIV in Europe, a pan-European HIV/AIDS initiative coordinated from Copenhagen, said heterosexuals in Europe are at risk of carrying HIV for so long that they remain undiagnosed until their immune system begins to fail, and they fall ill.
An international study led by the initiative shows that diseases, including herpes zoster and certain forms of cancer, should be on the list of indicators for having HIV, which in turn could prompt health care professionals to suggest an HIV test to their patients.
This could aid in earlier diagnosis and treatment of HIV, which attacks and weakens a patient's immune system, the initiative said, and help improve European response to treatment and care of HIV patients, English.news.cn reported.
"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," said Prof. Jens Lundgren of Copenhagen University, who co-chairs the HIV in Europe initiative.
"We need to find people living with HIV sooner than is currently the case, but to do so requires that doctors and other healthcare professionals offer tests to people presenting (themselves) with diseases indicative of a hidden and undiagnosed HIV infection earlier in the course of the disease," Lundgren said in a press statement.
Since 2009, the HIV in Europe initiative has investigated eight new diseases to see how often they have proven to be signs of an undiagnosed HIV infection, in a study of 3,588 patients, the statement added.
If these signs were of a sexually transmitted disease, herpes zoster, anal cancer or hepatitis B or C, among others, the network believes health professionals should offer the patient an HIV test.
The network stressed that these indicators do not necessarily mean a patient has HIV, but that the incidence of HIV was greater for the eight indicator diseases.
UNAIDS estimates 2.5 million Europeans, both inside and outside of the EU, are HIV positive, but up to 900,000 are unaware of their status. According to HIV in Europe, half of all people living with HIV are diagnosed very late in course of their chronic HIV infection.
The initiative said it will present results of the study, and discuss the new guidelines for HIV indicators, at an international HIV conference on March 19-20.