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Medics in east London begin routine testing of critcal patients for HIV

14:38 06 May 2014

Doctors working for Barts Health have introduced the routine testing of seriously ill patients for HIV in an effort to ensure early detection of the virus as well as preventing its spread.

It follows the success of a six-month pilot from October 2012 to April 2013 at The Royal London Hospital when all patients in the adult critical care unit were offered the opportunity to have their blood tested for HIV.

Of the 899 adults on the adult critical care unit, 465 (52 per cent) agreed to the test and three individuals, who were found to be HIV-positive, have now started treatment.

The results showed a rate of HIV in patients on the unit at 6 per 1000 individuals, consistent with the local prevalence of HIV in Tower Hamlets at 6.25 per 1000, one of the highest in the country.

The project is now also being rolled out across Newham University Hospital which is also run by Barts Health NHS Trust.

Newham has one of the highest rates of HIV in the UK.

Dr Chloe Orkin, Consultant in HIV medicine, said: “Having undiagnosed HIV is a threat to health, but on critical care the stakes are even higher. Patients on the intensive care unit are the sickest in the hospital and rapid diagnosis of relevant health problems is critical to their survival.

“As people will already be having their blood tested on the adult critical care unit, it means just one more test that could help save their life and also prevent onward transmission to partners.”

The findings support national and international guidance calling for the introduction of universal opt-out testing for HIV in UK critical care departments where the local prevalence of HIV exceeds 2 per 1000 individuals.

Dr Orkin said: “There are many missed opportunities for HIV testing of patients, such as at GP appointments, and in hospital wards and clinics. When diagnosed early, HIV need not be the death sentence it once was. There is much we can do to help people to live well and have a near-normal life expectancy.”

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