The purpose of this study is to identify patients who have early HIV infection. Patients who
have been infected with HIV recently may develop flu-like symptoms within 3 to 8 weeks.
Those who go to the hospital emergency room for these symptoms and who may have been exposed
to HIV recently will be given a questionnaire and the opportunity to be tested for HIV.
Most people develop flu-like symptoms shortly after becoming infected with HIV, and many of
these people go to a hospital emergency room for treatment. However, most doctors do not
think of testing people with flu-like symptoms for HIV. This study will look at a plan to
change this because it is very important to identify patients who have early HIV infection.
Viral load (level of HIV in the blood) is very high during early HIV infection, and it is
easy to spread HIV to others during this period. Patients who learn they are HIV-positive
can stop risky behavior that might spread HIV to other people. Also, patients who find out
early that they are HIV positive are able to begin anti-HIV treatment sooner, slowing the
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
Patients may be eligible for this study if they:
- Are at least 18 years old.
- Have never tested positive for HIV.