Intended for healthcare professionals


Medical students, their electives, and HIV

BMJ 1999; 318 doi: (Published 16 January 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;318:139

Unprepared, ill advised, and at risk

  1. David Wilkinson, Specialist scientist (,
  2. Brian Symon, Acting director
  1. Centre for Epidemiological Research in South Africa, Medical Research Council, Hlabisa, South Africa
  2. Clinical Services and Information Technology, South Australian Centre for Rural and Remote Health, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia

    Papers pp 158, 161

    Most medical students go overseas on their electives—97% from one medical school1—and many go to Africa. The attractions are obvious: adventure, travel, new cultures, and a depth and range of medical experience that may never be gained at home. However, like any travel experience, electives can be dangerous. British medical students doing electives overseas often go to areas with high HIV prevalence, work in settings with poor infection control practices, and are exposed to HIV and other bloodborne viruses.2 The reports by Moss and Beeching (p 161) and Gamester et al (p 158) in this week's issue provide shocking data that help to quantify these concerns. 1 3

    In their questionnaire survey of British medical schools Moss and Beeching show that only half the schools provide written advice about health and safety on electives.1 Most rely on the normal curriculum for providing information on personal risks of acquiring HIV, and only two schools make postexposure prophylaxis for …

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