Following a successful pilot at The Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, the Barts Health NHS Trust of the British National Health Service has begun routinely offering the blood test for HIV infection to all critical care patients served by the trust, aiming to get more HIV cases diagnosed earlier, thereby helping to stop the virus’ spread by those who don’t know they are infected. Fifty-two percent of 899 patients on the pilot critical care unit agreed to the test, three of whom tested positive for HIV, enabling their doctors to commence treatment.6
Patients on critical care units are receiving blood tests already, and the HIV test was presented as just one more test, albeit one with the potential to save lives and stop HIV transmission to partners, said Barts Health NHS Trust HIV medicine consultant Chloe Orkin, MD.
“People are still dying of HIV in the UK—but only because they test too late,” Dr. Orkin says.
The new policy at the UK’s largest regional health trust is in line with guidelines recommending the introduction of universal opt-out testing for HIV in critical care departments where local prevalence of the infection exceeds two per 1,000 individuals.
Larry Beresford is a freelance writer in Alameda, Calif.