OBJECTIVES: To estimate the extent of aciclovir refractory herpes simplex virus (HSV) infection in HIV coinfected patients in the United Kingdom and survey clinicians on their approaches to its management. DESIGN: Questionnaire survey of representative sample of one third of United Kingdom HIV physicians. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Use of antiviral therapies for genital HSV infections in HIV positive patients, reported frequency of aciclovir refractory HSV infection, its therapy, and access to antiviral susceptibility testing facilities. RESULTS: 53 responses were obtained (response rate 61%), representing a sample size of 23% of United Kingdom HIV physicians. Use of non-standard antiviral regimens for HSV infections in HIV coinfected patients was widely practised, irrespective of the clinical characteristics of the HSV infection. Aciclovir refractory HSV infection has been observed by 37 (70%) respondents. Although foscarnet was the most frequently used therapy, used by 27/37 (73%) respondents, in only seven of these 27 (19%) was it a first line treatment for aciclovir refractory cases, frequently being used at a late stage in the clinical course. Antiviral susceptibility testing facilities were available to 46 (87%) clinicians. No respondents reported any evidence of transmission of aciclovir resistant strains. CONCLUSIONS: HIV coinfection has a stronger influence on therapeutic choice than clinical immunosuppression or severity of herpetic infection. Aciclovir treatment failure is commoner than hitherto recognised. There is a need for wider awareness of use of foscarnet at an earlier stage in management of refractory HSV infection.
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