Have a symptom?
See what questions
a doctor would ask.

Misdiagnosis of HIV/AIDS

Misdiagnosis of HIV/AIDS

A diagnosis of the HIV can easily be missed or delayed because there are often no symptoms in the early stages, and the infected person may be unaware of an HIV infection. Embarrassment and not being honest with a health care provider about sexual activity can also delay a diagnosis. In addition, some symptoms of HIV infection, such as weight loss and flu-like symptoms, can be vague and mimic many other conditions. These include influenza. Diagnosis may also be missed or delayed because HIV may not be detectable with diagnostic testing in the first one to three months after infection.

Because of these factors, it is important to have regular medical care throughout a lifetime in order to maximize the chances of early diagnosis and treatment of HIV infection....more about HIV/AIDS »

Alternative diagnoses list for HIV/AIDS:

For a diagnosis of HIV/AIDS, the following list of conditions have been mentioned in sources as possible alternative diagnoses to consider during the diagnostic process for HIV/AIDS:

Diseases for which HIV/AIDS may be an alternative diagnosis

The other diseases for which HIV/AIDS is listed as a possible alternative diagnosis in their lists include:

HIV/AIDS misdiagnosed as another condition:

Sometimes a physician may misdiagnose HIV/AIDS incorrectly as another condition when the correct diagnosis is HIV/AIDS. The following list of conditions have been mentioned in sources as conditions that may be a misdiagnosis of HIV/AIDS.

Rare Types of HIV/AIDS:

HIV/AIDS: Medical Mistakes

Related medical mistakes may include:

HIV/AIDS: Undiagnosed Conditions

Commonly undiagnosed conditions in related areas may include:

Common Misdiagnoses and HIV/AIDS

Sinusitis is overdiagnosed: There is a tendency to give a diagnosis of sinusitis, when the condition is really a harmless complication of another infection, such as a common cold.

Whooping cough often undiagnosed: Although most children in the Western world have been immunized against whooping cough (also called "pertussis"), this protection wears off after about 15 years. Thus, any teen or adult with a persistent cough may actually have whooping cough. This is particularly dangerous for babies too young to be vaccinated, and any un-vaccinated children. Whooping cough can be fatal to an infant. The cough symptoms of whooping cough is usually productive initially, but then becomes a persistent dry cough, lasting up to 100 days. Elderly grandparents may also be a reservoir of undiagnosed whooping cough.

Chronic lung diseases hard to diagnose: Some of the chronic lung diseases are difficult to diagnose. Even the well-knowns conditions such as asthma or lung cancer often fail to be diagnosed early. Some of the chronic lung diseases with diagnostic difficulties include asthma (perhaps surprisingly), COPD, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, cystic fibrosis, mesothelioma, smoker's cough, AIDS-related respiratory conditions (see AIDS), chronic pneumonia, and other respiratory diseases. Rare possibilities include diseases like psittacosis (bird-related lung infection). See other types of chronic lung diseases.

Failure To Diagnose HIV/AIDS

Failure to diagnose HIV/AIDS may be associated with the following:

  • HIV/AIDS often remains undiagnosed in older people as they believe they do not face a great risk of contracting the disease. Health professionals also feel they are in a low-risk group and tend to dismiss HIV/AIDS as a possible diagnosis in elderly patients. Conditions that normally signify an AIDS infection are often similar to those associated with the normal aging process and is therefore often overlooked. Dementia due to HIV may be mistaken for Alzheimer's disease and sudden weight loss may be misdiagnosed as due to age-related depression. If AIDS is diagnosed in older people, it is often relatively delayed and the prognosis is therefore much poorer
  • Many patients fail to recognise that they are engaging in behaviours that place them at risk of contacting HIV and thus their condition is less likely to be diagnosed. In some cases, patients may be unaware of their partners risky behaviours which leave them exposed to an increased risk of contracting the disease but they are totally unaware that they are at risk
  • Some patients are insufficiently educated about factors that increases their risk of HIV/AIDS and hence don't consider the condition as a possibility. For example, some patients believe that only having only one sexual partner means that they won't get HIV/AIDS but they fail to consider their partners sexual history or other factors such as injecting drugs that may pose a risk
  • HIV/AIDS is often undiagnosed as patients are afraid of being tested for the condition due to the stigma attached to it. Even patients who realise they are at risk of contracting the disease may hesitate seeing a doctor due to embarrassment or even because they fear they may get a positive diagnosis. Early diagnosis usually delivers a better prognosis
  • The early stages of HIV/AIDS often produce no symptoms and thus the condition is not diagnosed until it becomes more advanced. Sometimes, the patient may not have any symptoms for up to ten years. It is usually high-risk patients who are tested regularly that are diagnosed in the early stages
  • Sometimes health professionals don't consider HIV/AIDS as a possible cause in patients who present with repeated infections. This is especially true if the patient tends to see different doctors whenever they seek medical advice
  • Patients with undiagnosed HIV/AIDS who undergo surgery have a much greater risk of complications such as infection. These infections tend to be rarer in healthy people and are usually serious. Because many patients with HIV/AIDS don't have symptoms for years, they are unknowingly facing a greater risk of complications when they undergo surgery. HIV/AIDS needs to be considered in any patient who develops unusual complications following surgery

Notes On Hidden Causes Of HIV/AIDS

The following may be hidden causes of HIV/AIDS:

  • HIV can be transmitted through sexual contact, infected blood (e.g. transfusion or infection by sharing needles with infected drug users) or mother to child transmission. In extremely rare cases infection can occur through use of contaminated, unsterilized surgical or dental equipment or organ or tissue transplants that are infected
  • Risk factors include unprotected sex with multiple partners or infected partners, having another sexually transmitted disease, sharing needles to inject drugs, having received a blood transfusion before 1985 and having less CCL3L1 genes that can fight HIV infection

Notes On Wrong Diagnosis Of HIV/AIDS

Wrong diagnosis of HIV/AIDS may be associated with the following:

  • Certain infections such as pneumonia may be simply pneumonia or an opportunistic infection due to HIV. HIV may be overlooked in a patient that presents with recurring infections such as pneumonia unless the health professional is informed of any HIV risks that the patient may be exposed to e.g. a partner who has been diagnosed with HIV. Thus a patient who is considered at high risk of developing HIV is more likely to have the condition diagnosed early than in patients who are perceived as having little or no risk. Patients who acknowledge they face a greater risk are more likely to undertake regular testing for the infection. Furthermore, patients perceived to be at high risk are more likely to wrongly diagnosed with HIV and those perceived to be at a low risk are more likely to have their HIV infection undiagnosed
  • The early stages of HIV infection may cause a flu-like illness and may be misdiagnosed as the flu
  • Memory problems due to HIV/AIDS in elderly patients may be misdiagnosed as dementia
  • Fatigue associated with HIV/AIDS may be misdiagnosed as depression - especially in the elderly.
  • HIV infection may mimic conditions such as B-cell, T-cell or combined immunodeficiency disorders (e.g. hypogammaglobulinemia, severe combined immunodeficiency)
  • HIV/AIDS is rarely considered as a possible cause of developmental delay and failure to thrive in children unless the health professional is advised of any risks the child has been exposed to (e.g. mother diagnosed with HIV)
  • HIV/AIDS may be overlooked in children and adolescents who present with swollen lymph nodes and enlarged liver and spleen which may also be caused by infections such as cytomegalovirus and Epstein-Barr virus
  • Persistent skin rashes and flaky skin is often overlooked as a symptom of HIV and is either ignored by the patient or self-treated. If medical advice is sought, it is often diagnosed simply as an isolated skin disorder
  • Weight loss due to HIV/AIDS is often not considered a problem as most people in today's society of obesity are happy to lose weight and don't always associate with a problem. It may be dismissed as being due to increased exercise, reduced food intake, reduced appetite or stress

Complications Of Misdiagnosis Of HIV/AIDS

The following may be complications of misdiagnosis of HIV/AIDS:

  • Cytomegalovirus colitis is often associated with HIV/AIDS but its signs and symptoms are similar to idiopathic inflammatory disease with which it may be misdiagnosed

Medical news summaries about misdiagnosis of HIV/AIDS:

The following medical news items are relevant to misdiagnosis of HIV/AIDS:

Misdiagnosis and HIV/AIDS deaths

HIV/AIDS is a condition that can possibly be deadly if misdiagnosed...more »

General Misdiagnosis Articles

Read these general articles with an overview of misdiagnosis issues.

About misdiagnosis:

When checking for a misdiagnosis of HIV/AIDS or confirming a diagnosis of HIV/AIDS, it is useful to consider what other medical conditions might be possible misdiagnoses or other alternative conditions relevant to diagnosis. These alternate diagnoses of HIV/AIDS may already have been considered by your doctor or may need to be considered as possible alternative diagnoses or candidates for misdiagnosis of HIV/AIDS. For a general overview of misdiagnosis issues for all diseases, see Overview of Misdiagnosis.


By using this site you agree to our Terms of Use. Information provided on this site is for informational purposes only; it is not intended as a substitute for advice from your own medical team. The information on this site is not to be used for diagnosing or treating any health concerns you may have - please contact your physician or health care professional for all your medical needs. Please see our Terms of Use.

Home | Symptoms | Diseases | Diagnosis | Videos | Tools | Forum | About Us | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Site Map | Advertise