Routine HIV tests launched at NHS hospitals across east London
- Credit: Barts NHS
Doctors today launched the biggest-ever HIV routine testing programme at hospitals across east London.
They want to avoid cases like the 70-year-old named Alan who was ill for a year and went from clinic to clinic—but no-one thought to test him for HIV.
So all outpatients at six hospitals are being offered automatic HIV tests until Friday, which could involve 2,500 people at the Royal London in Whitechapel, the London Chest in Bethnal Green, The Mile End, Bart’s in the City, Newham General in Plaistow and Whipps Cross in Leytonstone.
Alan was almost 70 when he was found to be HIV positive and felt let down after going 12 months before being diagnosed.
“I was sent from clinic to clinic for tests to determine what was wrong with me,” he recalled.
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“Nobody thought to test me for HIV. I agreed to be tested immediately when I was finally asked.
“It was a massive shock having been found to be positive.
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“But once it sank in, I felt let down that nobody had suggested it before.”
Now Bart’s Health NHS Trust wants to see routine HIV testing “to take away the stigma” when outpatients visit hospitals.
Around 16 per cent of new diagnoses in Tower Hamlets are in an advanced stage, the trust revealed. It is similar in neighbouring Newham and Hackney.
Consultant Dr Chloe Orkin said: “We want to make it normal to offer tests and normal for patients to accept them.
“People would be very upset if a doctor missed a diabetes or cancer diagnosis.
“But diagnosing HIV late by not testing is just as serious—we need to change this.”
The Poplar & Limehouse MP Jim Fitzpatrick was among politicians and celebrities backing today’s launch. He visited the Royal London’s Outpatients Department and met Alan to lend his support for the scheme.
Others backing the project include London Mayor Boris Johnson, film-maker David Furnish and singers Annie Lennox and Beverley Knight.
Every outpatient giving blood for routine tests is also being tested for HIV, or given the choice to opt out.
The trust wants messages in hospitals encouraging tests to be as routine as those about smoking or having a flu-jab.