Almost 80 new diagnoses of HIV have been made in a year at an accident and emergency department in South London, following the introduction of routine testing for the virus.
Since July 2015, all patients over the age of 16 having a blood test in A&E at St Thomas’ Hospital have been tested for HIV, unless they chose to opt out.
“Early treatment intervention will have great personal and public health benefits”
In the first 12 months, more than 29,000 people were tested and 78 diagnosed with HIV who had previously been unaware of having the condition.
In addition, a further 12 people were identified who had not sought follow-up treatment since their initial diagnosis.
The hospital has also seen a 15% decrease in the number of people with HIV being admitted since the screening initiative was introduced, due to earlier treatment following diagnosis.
HIV prevalence in the area served by the hospital is the highest in the UK, with the borough of Lambeth seeing 15 per 1,000 people with HIV and the borough Southwark having 13 per 1,000. The national average is 1.9 people per 1,000.
Joel Paparello, HIV specialist nurse at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the hospital, said: “Our HIV screening programme is helping to identify people who might not otherwise get timely diagnoses.
“People with HIV can live long and healthy lives, but this depends on them being diagnosed promptly”
“A quarter of the people we diagnosed had recently acquired the infection and early treatment intervention will have great personal and public health benefits,” he said.
Dr Nick Larbalestier, consultant physician and clinical lead for HIV at the trust, added: “People with HIV can live long and healthy lives, but this depends on them being diagnosed promptly and receiving the specialist treatment they need. This is why it’s so important to normalise the testing process and increase detection rates.”
Dr Larbalestier noted that in 2014 there were 613 deaths in the UK related to HIV or AIDS and half were associated with late diagnosis.
“Since introducing this new approach to testing, we have also seen a 15% decrease in the number of people with HIV being admitted to our hospital, because people are getting the treatment they need before they become acutely unwell,” he said.