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UK: HIV testing in high prevalence areas falls short

Wednesday, 13 November, 2013

An audit of expanded HIV testing in high prevalence areas of the UK has revealed that routine testing has only been implemented in a small minority of areas. The audit, which was conducted in 2012, revealed that very few areas were following national guidance, with only a third commissioning testing for new patients in general health practices and 14 percent for people admitted to hospital. These are concerning figures, not least because late diagnosis of HIV is becoming a significant issue in the country – around half of people newly diagnosed with HIV have a CD4 count below the threshold to begin treatment.

The UK has a relatively small HIV and AIDS epidemic in comparison with some parts of the world. An estimated 96,000 people in the UK – or around 1.5 per 1000 of the UK population – were living with HIV at the end of 2011 and statistics suggest that 24 percent were unaware of their infection. While the number of people living with HIV is relatively low, it has increased dramatically since the 1990s, alongside a general rise in the prevalence of sexually transmitted infections.

Improving routine HIV testing is, therefore, crucial to increase diagnosis rates and ensure people are tested as early and as regularly as possible, particularly in parts of the country where prevalence is above the national average. It is also important that barriers to adhering to the national HIV testing guidelines, such as a lack of resources, are addressed and that routine testing is prioritised to ensure these services are not falling short.

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