Preventing hypersensitivity reactions

There are few screening tests that can identify who might be at risk for drug-induced hypersensitivity. An allergy skin test can detect hypersensitivity to penicillin, but such tests are not available for other drugs.

Genetic tests of susceptibility are not available for most drugs, abacavir is one of the few. Screening does seem to be reliable and cost-efficient.1 2 3

In some cases, starting with a low amount of drug and increasing slowly to the full dose can reduce the risk of drug-induced hypersensitivity. This type of desensitisation protocol is standard for nevirapine (Viramune) and may be used for patients who are sensitive to sulfonamide drugs and have no alternatives.

It is important that patients tell their healthcare providers about any hypersensitivity risk factors before starting a new medication. After starting a new drug, patients should report any adverse reactions or unusual symptoms immediately. Those taking drugs associated with higher rates of hypersensitivity, such as abacavir (Ziagen), should be educated about what types of symptoms to look for and be advised to seek emergency assistance if symptoms are life-threatening.

Patients taking drugs associated with hypersensitivity require careful and frequent monitoring, including assessment of symptoms and laboratory measurements such as liver function tests. Most hypersensitivity occurs within several weeks after starting a new drug and monitoring should happen more often during this period.1


  1. Rauch A et al. Prospective genetic screening decreases the incidence of abacavir hypersensitivity reactions in Western Australian HIV Cohort Study. Clin Infect Dis 43: 99-102, 2006
  2. Phillips E et al. High sensitivity of HLA-B*5701 in Whites and Blacks in immunologically-confirmed cases of abacavir hypersensitivity (ABC HSR). Fourth IAS Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention, Sydney, Abstract WEAB305, 2007
  3. Phillips E et al. Pharmacogenetics and clinical characteristics of patch-test confirmed patients with abacavir hypersensitivity. Seventh International Workshop on the Clinical Pharmacology of HIV Therapy, Lisbon, abstract 33, 2006
Community Consensus Statement on Access to HIV Treatment and its Use for Prevention

Together, we can make it happen

We can end HIV soon if people have equal access to HIV drugs as treatment and as PrEP, and have free choice over whether to take them.

Launched today, the Community Consensus Statement is a basic set of principles aimed at making sure that happens.

The Community Consensus Statement is a joint initiative of AVAC, EATG, MSMGF, GNP+, HIV i-Base, the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, ITPC and NAM/aidsmap

This content was checked for accuracy at the time it was written. It may have been superseded by more recent developments. NAM recommends checking whether this is the most current information when making decisions that may affect your health.

NAM’s information is intended to support, rather than replace, consultation with a healthcare professional. Talk to your doctor or another member of your healthcare team for advice tailored to your situation.