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Government commits to opt-out testing expansion

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Ahead of World AIDS Day 2023, the Government has confirmed the expansion of routine opt-out HIV testing to hospital emergency departments in all 32 areas of high HIV prevalence in England.  

The new year long research programme will be led by the National Institute for Health and Care Research and will offer further valuable insights on emergency department testing.  

This is a significant moment – the announcement means fully implementing a key recommendation of the HIV Commission, which reported in 2020. It comes after years of work from National AIDS Trust and colleagues from Terrence Higgins Trust and Elton John AIDS Foundation off the back of the HIV Commission findings, and builds on a hugely successful NHS England pilot, which has seen 569 people in five areas of England diagnosed with HIV in the first 18 months.  

National AIDS Trust supporters were among more than 2,000 people who signed an open letter to the Government this year calling for the urgent expansion of the scheme.  

Deborah Gold, Chief Executive of National AIDS Trust, said:  

“We are delighted to warmly welcome today’s announcement that HIV testing will now routinely take place in every emergency department in 32 areas of England with high prevalence of HIV for the next year. This decision, which will more than double HIV testing capacity in England, means that more people will be diagnosed with HIV faster, and will be able to access lifesaving treatment which will also stop the virus being passed on. 

“Routine HIV testing in emergency departments is especially good at finding people who would otherwise not receive a test, most often from marginalised communities who are being left behind in our progress on HIV. With HIV diagnoses rising among women, and stubbornly high levels of late diagnosis among women and people from Black African communities, this announcement could not be more timely in making sure we don’t miss vital opportunities to diagnose someone who needs access to HIV care. 

“This important new research programme, funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research, will deliver opportunities for greater insights and shared learning alongside their crucial wider HIV research programme.    

“The focus must now be to ensuring that those who are newly diagnosed have access to local, culturally relevant support services, including peer support. Far too many people report experiencing HIV stigma, with self-stigma being something many have dealt with, particularly in the early days of their diagnosis. Peer support lets them know there is so much hope that can come with a HIV diagnosis.  

“As we approach World AIDS Day, this expansion is a positive step toward the goal of ending new HIV transmissions by 2030. But while the programme continues to identify more people living with HIV, it is imperative to ensure they’re able to thrive.” 

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