Adults attending the Emergency Department at St Helier Hospital will now be routinely screened for HIV in a bid to detect the condition earlier, as figures show that the London Borough of Sutton has one of the highest rates of late diagnosis of the virus.
The routine testing will take effect from Monday 4 November, with screening for all patients aged 16 and over who require a blood test as part of the care they need for the injury or emergency that has brought them to A&E (their presenting condition). Those who do not wish to have the test will be able to opt out.
Dr Olubanke Davies, Consultant in Genito-urinary Medicine and HIV at St Helier Hospital, said: “The London Borough of Sutton has one of the highest rates of late diagnoses of HIV in London, with 51.5% of HIV Positive people in the borough being diagnosed late – that is when the virus has already started to damage their immune system.
“We are one of several London emergency departments to offer routine testing, and hope to reach 8,000 local people in the first year. By diagnosing people earlier, we will not only improve the health of the affected person - making them less at risk of serious and potentially life-threatening infections - but also prevent the onward transmission of HIV.
“Studies have shown that HIV cannot be passed on sexually by people who are on effective treatment with an undetectable HIV viral load (the amount of HIV in the blood) for six months.”
Patients who test positive will be referred to the dedicated HIV service in the Rosehill Clinic at St Helier Hospital for treatment and support.
It is estimated that around 101,600 people are living with HIV in the UK, with 8% being undiagnosed. This means that 1 in 12 people living with HIV in the UK do not know that they have the virus.
The Rosehill Clinic provides comprehensive sexual health, contraceptive and HIV services in Sutton. For more information and clinic times, please visit: www.suttonhealthandcare.nhs.uk/sexual-health.