A rollout of routine HIV testing at hospital A&E departments across the country has helped identify more than 800 people living with HIV and hepatitis, according to NHS figures.
As of April 2022, the NHS made £20m available to implement routine opt-out HIV testing over three years, with testing being introduced in 33 emergency departments in parts of the UK that have the highest rates of HIV diagnoses.
Under the programme, patients visiting A&E are offered a discreet screening test for HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C, when their bloods are taken.
Between April and September 2022, 834 new cases of HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C have been identified in patients who had not previously been diagnosed or treated for these conditions.
A need for early diagnosis
Health chiefs believe that opt-out testing for HIV and Hepatitis in emergency departments is an effective way to reach people who have not previously considered or had access to blood borne virus testing opportunities.
NHS data shows that more than two fifths (42%) of HIV diagnoses are made late. At which time, the immune system has already suffered significant damage.
Furthermore, according to research, people who are diagnosed late with HIV are eight times more likely to die because of the virus.
This makes early diagnosis and treatment fundamental to reducing the risk of long-term ill-health, the spread of the virus to others, and premature death.
Professor Sir Stephen Powis, NHS National Medical Director, said: “This targeted programme builds on the testing already routinely available through GPs and sexual health services in every part of the country.
“The NHS is committed to early detection diagnoses of HIV, hepatitis and other blood borne viruses, to ensure people have access to the latest and most effective life-saving medication, which prevents long-term health issues to reduce the chance of unknown transmissions to others.”
How does HIV cause disease?
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus that is transferred through bodily fluids, vaginal fluids, and semen.
The virus infects the cells of the immune system over time, impacting its efficiency, and making it more difficult for the body to fight off infections.
Although there are some early symptoms of HIV that people can look out for including fever, headache, tiredness or fatigue, loss of appetite, a sore throat and/or swollen lymph nodes, many people do not display any symptoms at all for weeks, months or even years.
This means that HIV is highly transmissible and is often passed on through sexual intercourse by people who do not realise that they have the virus, making routine HIV testing extremely important for people who are sexually active.
If left undiagnosed/untreated, the virus will eventually develop into acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), which is sometimes referred to as advanced HIV.
AIDS occurs when a person’s immune system has become significantly weakened by HIV. At this stage, the immune system does not work properly, making the person more susceptible to infections.
You can find out more about HIV by visiting www.sexwise.org.uk.
Where can I buy a HIV test?
An AlphaBiolabs home HIV test looks for the presence of HIV antibodies and the p24 antigen early detection marker using a finger prick blood sample.
You can order your test online for £29. Your test kit will be sent out in discreet, plain packaging, and is suitable for people with or without symptoms.
Please be aware, you must be at least 16 years of age to purchase a home STI test from AlphaBiolabs.
IMPORTANT: If you believe you have been exposed to HIV within the past 72 hours, you should seek PEP medication from your local sexual health clinic before ordering a HIV test.
If you are experiencing symptoms that are causing severe pain or discomfort, or that require a face-to-face examination, we advise you to contact your GP or local sexual health clinic as soon as possible.
For more information, call our friendly and discreet Customer Services team on 0333 600 1300 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Home HIV Test
Monitor your sexual health with an AlphaBiolabs home HIV Test for just £29.