Infrequent diagnosis of primary human immunodeficiency virus infection: missed opportunities in acute care settings

Arch Intern Med. 2003 Sep 22;163(17):2097-100. doi: 10.1001/archinte.163.17.2097.


Although primary human immunodeficiency virus infection (PHI) is usually symptomatic and early management is likely important, the diagnosis is infrequently made. We examined a prospectively enrolled cohort of individuals diagnosed as having PHI in the southeastern United States to determine problems associated with the diagnosis of PHI. The following information was collected on each individual: site of initial presentation, number of visits to health care settings before diagnosis, diagnosing physician, alternative diagnoses, presumptive therapies, and time to diagnosis of PHI. Data were available for 29 of 30 patients (17 white, 12 nonwhite). Most patients were seen at least 3 times before the diagnosis of PHI was made. White persons were seen more frequently by primary care providers (P =.09). Nonwhite persons were diagnosed more quickly (P =.045). Only 5 patients (17%) were correctly diagnosed during their first encounter with the health care system, while 5 (17%) remained undiagnosed for more than 1 month after first presentation. Infectious diseases specialists diagnosed 83% of the cases. Human immunodeficiency virus is infrequently diagnosed during primary infection. More expeditious diagnosis of human immunodeficiency virus infection is a clinical and public health imperative.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Clinical Competence
  • Diagnostic Errors*
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / diagnosis*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Time Factors
  • United States
  • Viral Load