HIV diagnosis progress hampered by inaccurate online information

Inaccurate and out-of-date online information about HIV is hampering efforts to improve early diagnosis rates, the National Aids Trust (NAT) has warned.

The NAT has set up its own website, HIVaware.org.uk, run in partnership with Durex
The NAT has set up its own website, HIVaware.org.uk, run in partnership with Durex

The charity carried out an audit of websites featuring information on HIV and other sexual health issues and found that much information was incor-rect or out of date.

NAT chief executive Deborah Jack told GP that information about symptoms in particular was often inaccurate and represented a ‘missed opportunity’ to improve early diagnosis rates.

‘Given that we know that the majority of new infections are from people who are themselves undiagnosed – many of them at an early stage of infection – this is a real missed opportunity to educate people,’ she said.

‘There is no information about what the most common symptoms are what someone should do if they experience symptoms after putting themselves at risk.’

She said websites often stated that many people have no symptoms of HIV infection for years, even though 70%-90% of people have some symptoms during sero-conversion.

The NAT has now set up its own website, HIVaware.org.uk, run in partnership with Durex, and will also be contacting publishers of inaccurate online information 'to identify the content that needs updating and make suggestions as to how it can be improved'.

Ms Jack said the most common area where information was out of date is around testing. A number of sites state that laboratories can only test for HIV antibodies, whereas they can now test for antigens and nearly all clinics use these tests, she said.

Websites also inaccurately stated that there is no point in taking a test for at least three months and that patients need to wait for your test to be sent off to a laboratory to get your results, she said. In fact, antigen tests provide accurate results from four weeks after potential infection and point of care tests, which provide results in 20 minutes, are now being used in a number of settings.

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