GPs to offer HIV tests as diagnoses double

By Stephen Robinson, 23 March 2011

New diagnoses of HIV have doubled in a decade, figures show, as NICE advises GPs to offer testing to at-risk groups.

NICE recommends GPs offer HIV testing to all adult males registered at practices in high prevalence areas, and in areas with a large community of men who have sex with men.

It comes as figures from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) show there were 3,780 new cases of HIV in 2010, a rise of 94% compared with 2001.

Men who have sex with men remain the group most at risk of infection. New diagnoses in this group alone increased by 70% in this time.

The NICE guideline calls for health professionals to promote HIV testing in multiple settings, including primary care.

NICE outlines a range of circumstances in which GPs should offer HIV testing to adult males, including those who live in areas where more than two-in-1,000 people have diagnosed HIV.

GPs are also asked to promote HIV testing when delivering sexual health promotion and HIV prevention interventions among men who have sex with men.

RCGP chairwoman Dr Clare Gerada said: ‘The RCGP welcomes the new NICE guidelines and we are sure that GPs will help patients come forward for testing.’

Valerie Delpech, head of HIV surveillance at the HPA, said the expanded HIV testing policies for primary care ‘should be prioritised for implementation as soon as possible’.

In related guidance, NICE also advised GPs in areas with black African communities to improve education and advice about HIV infection and transmission.

GPs should routinely offer and recommend an HIV test to at-risk people, and consider offering a test to all new registrants in areas with high prevalence.

The HPA said increased testing will encourage early diagnosis in these groups.

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