Early identification of HIV infection is an important factor in preventing the spread of HIV. It is hoped that patients who learn their HIV status will decrease behavior that may lead to further transmission of HIV. Infectiousness of HIV is high during PHI, with some of the highest viral loads seen shortly after infection. Treatment for HIV infection now typically begins after identification of infection, but treatment during PHI may positively affect the long-term outcome of the disease. The majority of patients present with flu-like symptoms during PHI. Many seek medical attention, often in an ED setting, but rarely is the diagnosis of HIV considered. Specific screening efforts, therefore, are needed to identify infected individuals before standard ELISA testing would detect infection. This study attempts to demonstrate that administration of a questionnaire to a targeted population presenting symptomatically with viral syndrome in an inner city ED will result in increased screening for HIV and identification of patients with PHI.
Patients presenting to the UCSD ED with viral syndromes are approached by staff and asked to complete a questionnaire regarding possible recent HIV exposure. Patients with risk for recent HIV infection are offered participation in this study. Pre-test counseling includes a review of: (1) the risk of discrimination if the test is positive, (2) the implications of a positive test upon the health of the patient and that of their sexual or needle-use partners, and (3) the possibility that this test, like any laboratory test, could be wrong. Consenting patients have blood drawn for HIV RNA testing and for possible HIV p24 antigen confirmatory test. Blood is labeled with a unique identifying number and not by name. When results become available, patients go the UCSD Treatment Center to learn the results and for post-test counseling.