Patients in six of London’s hospitals are to be offered a HIV test as standard if they visit an Accident & Emergency department, in the first large scale programme of its kind.
Barts Health, which is the biggest NHS Trust in Britain covering 2.5 million people, are building upon a series of pilot programmes that were undertaken earlier in the year.
In one trial at The Royal London, doctors treated eight patients who did not realise they were HIV-positive, including two people who had very high viral loads. Five others had stopped accessing treatment despite previously testing positive.
Just under 3,000 people agreed to take a test in the trial in March and April out of the 9,000 that were asked.
The programme, in which patients will have to opt-out if they do not wish to have a test, has also been beneficial to staff members according to the HIV specialist nurse Rachel Bath.
She said: “The project also made our non-sexual health clinicians more aware of HIV and facilitated retraining on the need to test.”
Bart’s Health Trust is also aiming to get 2,500 outpatients tested across all of its departments in all of its hospitals as part of HIV Testing Week next month.
The six hospitals in East London taking part include St Bartholomew’s, The Royal London, The London Chest Hospital, Newham University Hospital, Mile End Hospital and Whipps Cross University Hospital.
In the borough of Tower Hamlets, where many of the hospitals are based, doctors say that six people in every thousand test positive for HIV – which is five times higher than the national average. 16% of those who test positive have late-stage HIV.