Letter: HIV findings misrepresented

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NEVILLE Hodgkinson's letter ('HIV is not a death sentence', 21 November) grossly misrepresented the recent findings of a study in Uganda supported jointly by the Medical Research Council and the Overseas Development Administration.

The letter failed to point out - even though this was highlighted at the London press conference - that within the adult population aged 13-44 the annual risk of death in HIV- positive people was 60 times the risk in HIV-negatives.

The letter states that only 5 out of 64 deaths in HIV-positive people were diagnosed as Aids- related, implying that the remaining 59 died from other causes. In fact, at the time of the medical assessments, in addition to the 5 cases of clinical Aids, 31 others had one or more major disease symptoms; 28 had no major symptoms. Nevertheless, all, including those who had been asymptomatic, died within 12 months of examination.

Mr Hodgkinson's assertion that the HIV test used by the study team has not been properly validated is simply untrue. The team participates in a World Health Organisation international quality control network and the accuracy of their HIV test is close to 100 per cent.

Finally, I was astonished by Mr Hodgkinson's implication that the team in Uganda do not treat HIV-positive patients. Both HIV-positive and HIV- negative study participants regularly attend the team's clinics and those who are ill receive appropriate medical treatment.

A B Stone

Head, MRC Aids Secretariat

Medical Research Council

London W1