The HIV/AIDS epidemic is now most rapidly expanding in the non-industrialised world. As more and more poor people fall sick and die prematurely, the issue of care for the HIV-infected person living in a resource-poor country is of paramount importance. Rational and comprehensive care packages need to be based on proper understanding of the natural history of infection and accurate measurement of the HIV/AIDS disease burden. In the early stages of infection, disease progression is the same in non-industrialised nations as it is in industrialised countries. Once virulent diseases start, survival is short largely because of limited access to inadequate health care. Therefore, early HIV-related disease, as well as AIDS, are targets for care. Needs are diverse but can be considered as more of the same (e.g. to cope with additional cases of TB generated by HIV) and those new services such as voluntary counselling and testing and palliative care. Budgets are limited everywhere, but prioritisation can be promoted through drawing up a hierarchy of care needs. Specific HIV/AIDS services and the provision of anti-retroviral therapy come after basic services are implemented. Affordable ways to use disease-modifying drugs need to be pursued that are relevant to non-industrialised countries and which do not promote AIDS exceptionalism.
British Medical Bulletin (2001) Volume 58, Number 1 pp. 171-186.