HIV Indicator Conditions

Conditions which are more common in people living with HIV than in the general population and which can indicate underlying HIV infection are known as HIV indicator conditions.

Some HIV indicator conditions are caused or exacerbated by HIV as it destroys the immune system. Of these, a number are ‘AIDS defining’, that is they occur when the immune system is seriously impaired and HIV infection has progressed to AIDS (for example Kaposi’s sarcoma). Others have the same route of transmission as HIV (for example sexually transmitted infections).

Herpetic Whitlow. Herpes simplex is an HIV indicator condition (Colm O’Mahony)

HIV indicator condition-guided testing

European guidance on HIV testing in healthcare settings strongly recommends offering an HIV test to patients routinely when they present with an HIV indicator condition (indicator condition-guided testing). 1 It is considered that this universal approach is cost effective where at least one person in a thousand with the condition has undiagnosed HIV. Recent pan-European research identified conditions in which HIV prevalence was over this 0.1% threshold, even exceeding 2.5% in a number of these conditions. 2

Other research has shown that a routine offer of HIV testing is effective and highly acceptable to patients presenting with an HIV indicator condition. One study found that uptake was high when testing was routinely offered, but overall testing rates were lower because healthcare professionals did not always routinely offer the test. 3


Some conditions, which are common in the general population (for example psoriasis), can become severe, persistent or recurrent when there is underlying HIV infection. In such developing presentations, an HIV test should be offered. When these conditions have a normal presentation, the patient’s medical, sexual and drug-taking history should help inform whether to offer a test, but if in doubt it is safer to offer a test than to ignore the possibility of HIV.

Good clinical practice

It is basic good clinical practice to offer an HIV test to any patient presenting with symptoms which could be HIV-related. Failure to do so could be deemed medically negligent.

Why test for HIV? / Natural history of HIV

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