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An overview of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

02 October 2016
Volume 8 · Issue 10


The World Health Organization recognises HIV as a global health problem. Within the UK there are over 100,000 people living with HIV; 6,000 new cases are diagnosed each year and there is an unrelenting rate of transmission between men who have sex with men (MSM). Paramedics are increasingly likely to encounter patients living with HIV, and it is necessary for them to be familiar with HIV, HIV treatment and the tailored high-impact prevention strategies used to reduce the rate of HIV transmission. Paramedics can also attempt to reduce the spread of HIV by encouraging HIV testing, post-exposure prophylaxis treatment, and routine use of condoms during sexual intercourse. This article aims to provide an overview of HIV within the UK population.

The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is one of the World's most destructive viruses, and it is estimated that over 35 million people have died from HIV Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) since its discovery in the 1980s (UNAIDS, 2014). HIV AIDS has proliferated to become the leading cause of death within sub-aharan Africa, and a global health problem (Rao et al, 2006; World Health Organization, 2015). Currently, over 100,000 people are known to be living with HIV within the United Kingdom (UK); approximately 6,000 new cases are diagnosed each year and there is an unrelenting rate of HIV transmission amongst men who have sex with men (MSM) (Skingsley et al, 2015; Terrence Higgins Trust, 2015). Therefore, paramedics are more likely to encounter patients who have HIV within their clinical practice; they should feel able to engage in safer-sex conversation, signpost higher-risk patients to HIV testing facilities or services, encourage adherence to HIV medication, and appropriately recommend post-exposure prophylaxis services as part of a multifaceted HIV prevention strategy. This article will provide paramedics with an overview of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, although it will specifically consider HIV-1, which is the most prevalent sub-type of HIV within the UK population.

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