Emergency departments in London have launched opt-out HIV testing as part of the government’s plan to end new cases by 2030.
The change, which went into effect on 1 April, means that all patients who go to A&E in the capital’s hospitals will be routinely tested for HIV when having other blood tests, unless they choose not to.
“The expansion of opt-out HIV testing in emergency departments is an important step change when it comes to reaching our life-changing goal of ending new HIV cases by 2030,” said Ian Green, Chief Executive at Terrence Higgins Trust.
“We need to be testing more people, more often in order to find the estimated 4,660 people living with undiagnosed HIV in the UK.”
The move is part of a wider effort from the government to end new HIV cases by 2030, a policy that was announced on World AIDS Day in December 2021.
The government’s HIV Action Plan commits £23 million of funding to reducing new infections by 80% by 2025 and ending infections and deaths within the following five years.
NEW: Today opt-out HIV testing has been launched in London hospitals—this means all patients who come into A&E are routinely tested for HIV when having other blood tests unless they say not to🩸
This is a vital step towards reaching the UK's goal of ending new HIV cases by 2030.
— Terrence Higgins Trust (@THTorguk) April 1, 2022
Green called on it to roll the approach out in other high prevalence areas across the UK as “we can’t afford to be conservative with just eight years to reach the goal.”
“In London hospitals where opt-out testing has been piloted, those diagnosed were more likely to be heterosexual women of Black ethnicity, and older than those diagnosed in sexual health clinics,” he continued. “This shows the clear role opt-out HIV testing will play in tackling health inequalities and driving us all – regardless of gender, ethnicity, age or sexuality – towards ending new HIV cases by 2030.”
£20 million of the government’s aforementioned funding will be allocated to targeted testing in high-risk populations, such as Black African communities, as well as expanding the opt-out tests in A&E departments.
There will be £3.5 million invested in a National HIV Prevention Programme from 2021-2024 that will make PrEP more accessible for key groups.
The UK has one of the biggest decreases in new HIV diagnoses worldwide, with the government reporting a 35% reduction in new diagnoses in England between 2014 and 2019.
In its announcement of the HIV Action Plan, the government commits to annually updating Parliament on the progress towards its 2030 goal.