By December 2000 there were 17 538 adult and paediatric patients with AIDS in the UK and 43 774 screened and infected with HIV.
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Many of those with the virus are well, asymptomatic, and even unaware that they are infected, but others, although they have not yet developed AIDS, have physical, psychological, social, and occupational problems and require as much care as those with AIDS. We therefore need to be concerned not with “a few cases” but with a large number of people infected with the virus, who will be making demands on every part of the health and social services. New infections will occur, and the public health education campaign will need to continue. None of us should feel that the problem of HIV infection and AIDS is unimportant and that it will go away because of the campaign and the possible magic bullet of a cure or vaccine. We can all hope for these things but it would be a mistake to be lulled into a state of inertia and complacency.
All of us will be concerned with AIDS for the rest of our professional lives. This book, originally written as weekly articles for the BMJ, attempts to give those doctors and other health care workers, who currently have had little experience of AIDS and HIV, some idea of the clinical, psychological, social and health education problems that they will become increasingly concerned with. Patients with HIV infection and AIDS spend most of their time out of hospital in the community. Admission is required only when an acute clinical illness supervenes. General practitioners and domiciliary and social services do not always feel skilled and knowledgeable enough to look after them. With the increase in the number of cases, the community services will have to be able and willing to cope. Again, I hope that this book will help to make people feel more skilled and comfortable about caring for patients with HIV and AIDS.
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