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Thousands of new HIV and Hepatitis cases identified thanks to NHS testing pilot

By June 9, 2023No Comments

Almost 2,000 people living with HIV and Hepatitis who were previously undiagnosed have been identified by the NHS over the last year, thanks to a new testing pilot.

Under the NHS programme, people visiting an A&E who are having blood taken as part of their visit have an extra sample of blood taken, which is screened for HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C.

If the test comes back positive for HIV or Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C, the patient is offered specialist support and a treatment plan is agreed with them.

Around 470 people living with blood borne viruses, such as HIV or hepatitis B or C, who were previously diagnosed, but not receiving NHS care, were identified following emergency department testing; and given the chance to complete treatment.

The NHS has invested £20 million over three years to implement routine HIV opt out testing programme within 33 hospital emergency departments, in areas with the highest rates of diagnosed prevalence of HIV, starting in April 2022.

Data shows more than two fifths (42%) of HIV diagnoses in the UK are made late, at a point when the immune system has already been significantly damaged. Research suggests that people who get a late HIV diagnosis are eight times more likely to die from the illness, so early identification is key in preventing ill-health, premature death and onward transmission.

The NHS England Hepatitis C Elimination programme has recently launched an online service where people can order self-testing kits, to accelerate progress towards elimination of the virus as a public health threat in the country.

Professor Sir Stephen Powis, NHS National Medical Director, said: “Effective testing for blood-borne viruses is vital in helping us identify and treat more people living with HIV and Hepatitis, so we are very pleased with the positive impact of our routine opt out testing programme.

“Increasing the early detection and diagnoses of HIV, hepatitis and other blood borne viruses, enables us to provide people with better access to the latest and most effective life-saving medication, which can prevent long-term health issues and reduces the chance of unknown transmissions to others.”