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Statement: The Government must expand opt-out testing without delay

Thursday, November 9, 2023

Today UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and the University of Bristol published a report which has found that opt-out testing in emergency departments in five areas of England has helped to diagnose thousands of people with blood borne viruses.

The report, commissioned by NHS England, evaluates the first 12 months of the opt-out testing programme for blood-borne viruses (BBV). The programme, introduced in April 2022, aims to test people attending emergency departments who are having a blood test, regardless of symptoms.

The report adds further evidence that opt-out testing must be expanded to more areas of the England to identify even more people living with HIV, who can then receive treatment to prevent passing the virus on.

Daniel Fluskey, Director of Policy at National AIDS Trust, said: “This report is further evidence of just how effective opt-out testing for blood borne viruses in emergency departments is. Making testing routine in all emergency departments in HIV high prevalence areas, and beyond, is critical in helping us to reach our goal of ending new HIV transmissions by 2030. Because of this programme, there are now at least 340 people who now know they are living with HIV and can access transformative treatment, protecting their own health and stopping HIV from being passed on to others.

“The recommendations in the report are welcomed and should only improve what is already a successful programme with greater consistency. The priority now must be to ensure the learning is taken forward at full scale so that opt-out testing in emergency departments can be rolled out across the country. This will mean that more people from groups who are less likely to test anywhere else will have the opportunity to be diagnosed in good time – including younger people, heterosexuals and people of Black ethnicities. This is fundamental in addressing health inequalities.

“The programme of opt-out testing currently being delivered is only available to people in five areas of England. But people all around the country continue to be at risk of late diagnosis, leading to drastically worse health outcomes for them. The report today, along with previously released data, means that no one is waiting to find out if opt-out testing works – we know it does. The expansion of the programme must now be taken forward by the Government without delay.”

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