Increase HIV testing, says NICE

NICE is recommending increased HIV testing in hospitals and GP practices in areas of high prevalence. In its recent Quality Standard (QS157), NICE proposes that hospitals test patients when admitted or when attending emergency departments. In general practice it says that patients registering or having a blood test should be tested.

Offering HIV testing routinely in GP practices and hospitals in areas of high or extremely high prevalence will help to ensure that having an HIV test is regarded as routine practice. This will help to reduce the stigma that can be associated with HIV testing, says NICE.

Dr Michael Brady, Medical Director at Terrence Higgins Trust, says:

‘The quality standard published by NICE is a very welcome step. One in seven people living with HIV do not know that they have it. This not only puts their own health at risk, but also means they may unwittingly pass the virus on to others.’

‘Rates of undiagnosed HIV and late diagnoses remain unacceptably high and we urgently need new approaches to HIV testing that are delivered on a large scale and targeted at those at risk. National guidelines have recommended HIV testing in general practice and A&E departments in high prevalence areas for nearly a decade now; but it is still not common practice and this must change.’

The five Quality Statements are:

Statement 1: Young people and adults are offered an HIV test when admitted to hospital or attending an emergency department in areas of extremely high HIV prevalence, or when having a blood test when admitted to hospital or attending an emergency department in areas of high HIV prevalence.

Statement 2: Young people and adults in areas of high or extremely high HIV prevalence are offered a HIV test by their GP practice when registering or when having a blood test if they have not had an HIV test in the past 12 months.

Statement 3: Young people and adults newly diagnosed with an HIV indicator condition are offered an HIV test.

Statement 4: Young people and adults in at-risk groups who test negative for HIV are advised that the test should be repeated at least annually.

Statement 5: People who may have been exposed to HIV by a person newly diagnosed with HIV are offered an HIV test.

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