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Call for Symptom Check Acute HIV Infection

by Redaktie in Health & Body , 11 October 2015

Dit artikel is ook in het Nederlands beschikbaar

Especially at the early stages of HIV, ‘the acute HIV infection stage,’ the virus can easily be passed on. To prevent further spreading and for the sake of the health of people with an HIV infection, it is of the utmost importance to start with HIV inhibitors at an early stage.

Through the H-team initiative (HIV Transmission Elimination Amsterdam), Soa Aids Netherlands and the Health Authority Amsterdam (GGD Amsterdam) have developed a new approach. This new approach will support infected people who contracted the virus through sex with men (MSM) by diagnosing them and treating their HIV infection as quickly as possible.

Symptoms Check

At the base of the approach is the questionnaire ‘Symptoms Check’ that men can answer on At the onset of an infection, certain symptoms often occur. When men have symptoms that resemble the beginning of an infection with HIV shortly after having unprotected sex, they will receive a referral to the GGD Amsterdam via the Symptoms Check. GGD Amsterdam has opened a special counter for acute infections, where a new testing method will track the first symptoms of an HIV infection. The HIV treatment centres in Amsterdam have accelerated procedures in place to make sure that someone with an acute HIV infection will receive treatment the very same day.

Fastest Approach Ever

“We have never been able to act this quickly at the early stages of an HIV infection,” Wim Zuilhof, programme leader of Mannen die Seks hebben met Mannen (MSM) for Soa Aids Nederland. “With this new test phase, the infection can be diagnosed even earlier. And that is important in the fight against HIV, as at the acute HIV infection stage, the virus can easily be transmitted. Quick treatment in that stage prevents that.

For the health of infected people, it is important that treatment is started as soon as possible. There are indications that the immune system has a better chance of staying fully intact when HIV inhibitors are started as soon as possible. Every day counts!”

44% hardly knows anything about symptoms shortly after an infection with HIV.

To gain a better understanding of the existing knowledge about acute HIV infection, Soa Aids Netherlands organised an online survey among 366 men who had sex with other men. Of those men, only 55% knows that shortly after the infection, you can become sick for several weeks.  30% thinks that there are no symptoms, and 14.5% indicates they do not know the answer to this question. Many men from the target group also do not know how quickly an HIV infection can be diagnosed - 36% thinks that HIV can only be measured in the blood after 3 months, while 24% thinks the answer is three weeks.

Symptoms Acute HIV Infection

In a period of two weeks up to three months after the infection, a large number of people with an HIV infection will develop symptoms: fever, fatigue, feeling sick, a skin rash, muscle and joint pains, a throat infection, swollen lymph nodes, head-aches, persistent diarrhoea, night sweats and ulcers (in the mouth or on genitals), but some people do not experience any symptoms at all.

HIV in the Netherlands

In the Netherlands, approximately 25,000 people are living with HIV, and the number is increasing. Approximately 25% has no idea that he or she has contracted HIV. On a yearly basis, there are approximately 1,100 new HIV patients in the Netherlands. Of these new diagnoses, about 350 take place in Amsterdam. Most of these HIV diagnoses are in gay men and migrants from areas in which HIV is relatively common. These new infection take place in spite of safe-sex campaigns, the availability of cheap condoms and the health care that is organised for these risk groups via STD clinics - for example the free testing on STDs. Through new interventions, such as quick diagnoses and treatment of acute HIV infections, innovative HIV test and PrEP, the number of new infections can be decreased.

Amsterdam is the first European city to start a project to eliminate the spreading of HIV. This initiative, called the H-team (Hiv Transmission Elimination AMsterdam), is a collaboration of all the parties that are involved in the fight against HIV and their target groups. The H-team gets support from the Aids Fonds and other sponsors.

Collaborating partners in the H-team are: the Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development (AIGHD), Stichting HIV Monitoring (SHM), RIVM, Soa Aids Nederland, GGD Amsterdam, Hiv Vereniging Nederland, as well as General Practitioners and hospitals in Amsterdam. The H-team combines the latest medical insight with psychosocial research and campaigns directed at risk groups, GPs and other care professionals. If the project is successful, it will be implemented throughout the Netherlands.



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