Routine HIV testing to start at Royal London Hospital’s A&E

Royal London's A&E

Royal London's A&E - Credit: Barts NHS Trust

Tests for HIV are to be offered to patients walking into the Accident & Emergency department at the Royal London Hospital.

Poster for HIV test at Royal London's A&E

Poster for HIV test at Royal London's A&E - Credit: Barts NHS Trust

A new scheme is being piloted offering routine testing to give anyone found to be ‘positive’ the earliest possible medical treatment.

The month-long trial starting Monday means emergency patients needing a blood test are also offered the choice to accept or decline a test when they are admitted.

“The most important factor is to make an early diagnosis,” said HIV consultant Dr Chloe Orkin. “HIV gradually destroys the body’s immune cells, leaving it vulnerable to infections and cancers.

“But early treatment which has advanced over the past 25 years gives patients a near-normal life expectancy.”

Six people out of every 1,000 living in Tower Hamlets test positive—five times higher than the national average, the hospital points out.

“The true figure could be even higher,” Dr Orkin warned. “People may remain free of symptoms for several years after infection.”

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Around 3,000 patients are seen in the hospital’s emergency department in Whitechapel every week, including 720 needing a blood test as part of their diagnosis and treatment.

The pilot programme aims to screen 2,000 patients over four weeks.

A&E consultant Dr Karim Ahmad explained: “Routinely testing patients coming into the Emergency department means we will detect HIV infection in those who may not know they’re at risk.

“Our goal is to increase the life expectancy of the whole community.”

The pilot scheme has already been running in other parts of the hospital including Medical Admissions and the high dependency and intensive treatment units where patients opt out of testing rather than opt in.

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