Medical Students Are Taking Risks With HIV During Elective Studies

January 15, 1999

(Medical students' risk of infection with blood borne viruses at home and abroad: questionnaire survey)

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(Provision of health advice for UK medical students planning to travel overseas for their elective study period: questionnaire survey)

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Two papers in this week's BMJ conclude that medical students are not being given adequate health advice and support when undertaking their elective studies in countries with a relatively high prevalence of blood borne viruses, such as HIV.

Medical students in the UK and in many other countries have an elective period as part of their training during which they are encouraged to pursue their clinical studies overseas, with many opting to go to developing countries.

In a study of 148 of such students, Claire Gamester and colleagues from Guy's, King's College and St Thomas's School of Medicine found that 42 per cent of those who visited areas with a relatively high prevalence of HIV were unaware of this, all of whom had visited areas other than sub-Saharan Africa. It would seem, say that authors, that these students and some of their advisers are unaware of the increasing prevalence of HIV infection in South East Asia, the Indian Subcontinent, Central America, the Caribbean and South America.

The authors conclude that medical schools should produce, regularly update and implement guidelines regarding protection from blood borne viruses during clinical studies, including electives. This view is supported in a paper by Peter Moss and Nick Beeching, also published in this week's BMJ who suggest that medical schools should be more specific and consistent in their pre-elective preparation for medical students. They say that this preparation could include a checklist for each student to be signed by their GP or doctor at a travel centre, confirming that appropriate advice has been given and followed.

Contact:

Dr Anthea Tilzey, Consultant Virologist, Guy's, King's College and St Thomas's School of Medicine, St Thomas's Campus, London

t: +44 171 928 9292 ext 2405 or 171 922 8167


f: +44 171 922 8387
a.gem@umds.ac.uk

Dr Nick Beeching, Senior Lecturer, Division of Tropical Medicine, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Liverpool

t: +44 151 529 3833


f: +44 151 529 3762
nbeeching@aol.com
-end-


BMJ

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