NAT calls for new HIV testing strategies to tackle undiagnosed HIV and late diagnosis.
NAT today launches a new report, ‘HIV Testing Action Plan – to reduce late HIV diagnosis in the UK’, outlining steps to increase HIV testing at a time of great change and financial pressure within the NHS.
HIV testing is at the heart of any effective strategy to tackle HIV in the UK. The number of people living with HIV in the UK will this year reach 100,000, 25% of whom are unaware of their infection. Latest statistics show that half of all adults with HIV are diagnosed late (after the point at which treatment should have started), which significantly increases the chances of ill health and an earlier death.
Failure to diagnose people early is harming public health - well over half of all HIV transmissions are from people who are undiagnosed. People diagnosed with HIV pay greater attention to reducing risk of onward transmission and once on treatment their infectiousness is greatly reduced. Without intensified testing efforts, the number of people with HIV will continue to increase. Increase in uptake of HIV testing will also save the NHS money - both in reduced illness amongst those diagnosed in good time, and in a reduced rate of new transmissions.
In England the reorganisation of the NHS as a result of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 raises particular challenges for HIV testing, since there has been an increase in the number of different bodies responsible for commissioning HIV testing services. A proactive and integrated strategy to improve HIV testing and halve late HIV diagnosis is essential if we are not to see fragmentation of services and a worsening in HIV testing rates.
Deborah Jack, Chief Executive of NAT (National AIDS Trust), comments:
‘As health budgets are squeezed across the country, it’s more important than ever for government, health commissioners and providers to recognise that HIV testing is extremely cost-effective – and saves money to the NHS purse in the long-term.
‘NAT's HIV Testing Action Plan makes the case for planning and investment in HIV testing to both national and local decision-makers. ‘With local authorities taking over responsibility for public health, we make recommendations which we believe assist those with new public health responsibilities to reduce undiagnosed HIV and late diagnosis.
‘HIV testing needs to be provided on an opt-out basis in a much wider range of healthcare settings. At present it is a scandal that most people with HIV are living for at least five years undiagnosed and that many repeatedly attend healthcare without any recommendation of an HIV test, and with testing guidelines ignored by many healthcare professionals.’
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NAT (National AIDS Trust) is the UK’s leading charity dedicated to transforming society’s response to HIV. We provide fresh thinking, expertise and practical resources. We champion the rights of people living with HIV and campaign for change.
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