The acquired immune deficiency syndrome has reached pandemic proportions. Anaesthetists should be aware of the implications of dealing with increasing numbers of both diagnosed and undiagnosed, symptomatic and asymptomatic, human immunodeficiency virus-infected patients in the fields of intensive therapy, operating theatre anaesthesia, obstetrics and pain management. With recent advances, important insights have been gained into the pathogenesis of human immunodeficiency virus. Molecular techniques allow quantification of viral burden, and together with CD4 T-lymphocyte count, prognosis and response to therapy can be evaluated. New drugs and therapeutic regimens have improved prognosis for those who are infected with the virus and vertical transmission of infection from mother to infant can be minimised. Should accidental occupational exposure to the virus occur, a prophylactic regimen of antiretroviral drugs can be administered in an attempt to prevent subsequent human immunodeficiency virus infection.
- Human immunodeficiency virus