HIV tests are now to be offered as a matter of course in A&E departments in two London hospitals. The pilot programme began earlier this year at Chelsea & Westminster Hospital. St Mary’s in Paddington will be the next to trial the practice.
A 2009 study at Chelsea & Westminster demonstrated that routine HIV testing in A&E helps detect undiagnosed cases of infection, which in turn enables people to start treatment earlier and prevent the spread of the disease.
Dr Ann Sullivan, Consultant Physician at the hospital, also notes that offering the test was “seen as acceptable by the majority of patients”, which perhaps speaks to the shift in public perception of HIV and AIDS over the last decade.
The announcement comes just four days after the 30th anniversary of the first AIDS cases in the US. It has been welcomed by Nick Partridge, chief executive of the Terrence Higgins Trust, the nation’s largest HIV and sexual health charity.
The disease may not be in the headlines regularly anymore, and early diagnosis coupled with advances in drug treatment can help those who are HIV positive to live long and healthy lives. But there are 28,000 people living with HIV in London and the figure is still rising. The Health Protection Agency has said that the number of cases in the UK will hit 100,000 next year.
Offering the quick, reliable blood test in A&E seems like a no-brainer and a step in the right direction. In fact, are you not a bit surprised that this didn’t happen earlier?
By Bethany Childs