GP practices to offer all new patients HIV test in bid to catch disease earlier

A pilot scheme in Coventry will see every patient registering at one of 10 practices in the region offered a simple finger prick blood test for HIV, revealing in under a minute if they have the disease.

Blood test: GP practice to test new patients for HIV (Photo: iStock)
Blood test: GP practice to test new patients for HIV (Photo: iStock)

GP practices in Coventry will routinely offer all new patients the diagnostic test in a hope to improve early detection of the disease and drive down the number of serious health problems and transmission.

Over half of the patients diagnosed in Coventry between 2011 and 2013 were diagnosed late, meaning they are much more likely to develop severe – even fatal – complications as a result of their condition.

Estimates for the UK suggest that around 108,000 people in the UK are living with HIV. Over a quarter are thought to remain undiagnosed.

GP HIV testing

NICE recommends that all areas with high HIV prevalence – classified as over two per 1,000 members of the population – should increase the number of HIV tests undertaken in primary care.

Coventry has the highest prevalence HIV in the West Midlands; with more than three out of every 1,000 people aged 15-59 diagnosed with the disease.

The scheme is being led by a partnership between Birmingham City University, the Integrated Sexual Health Service, Travel Clinix and Coventry City Council’s public health team.

If considered successful, the scheme could be rolled out to other areas of the country in the future.

High blood pressure

Dr Satyajit Das, sexual health consultant from the Integrated Sexual Health Service, said: ‘Quite simply, HIV is not the illness it used to be.

‘For thousands of people who have been given a positive diagnosis, HIV is now similar in many ways to other long-term conditions such as high blood pressure, but it is crucial that people come forward for testing.

‘Medication is now very effective and most people don’t realise that treatment can involve taking just one pill per day.’

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