Opt-out testing for HIV and Hepatitis C launches at The Royal London Hospital | Our news

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Opt-out testing for HIV and Hepatitis C launches at The Royal London Hospital

The Royal London Hospital Emergency Department is now offering tests for HIV and Hepatitis C (HCV) to all adults who have blood tests.

Testing aims to pick up those who don’t routinely undertake sexual health tests ensuring a more timely diagnosis and treatment which can improve outcomes, as well as aiming to make HIV testing seen as normal for both patients and clinical staff. Patients can choose to opt-out of testing for HIV and Hepatitis C.

Barts Health NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, has spearheaded several HIV testing initiatives in recent years, becoming one of the first in the country to offer routine HIV testing in the Critical Care Unit at The Royal London Hospital in 2014. The Emergency Department is now the second in the country to provide opt-out testing. 

Professor Chloe Orkin at The Royal London Hospital said: "We know from our previous work in The Royal London Hospital that the prevalence of both viruses is high in our local population. We have shown how worthwhile it is to test in this setting - we can identify and link many people to care in a way that is highly acceptable to patients and feasible for staff."

HIV and Hepatitis C are preventable diseases which are now easily treatable. People living with HIV who are diagnosed and treated early can expect to live a normal life with a near normal life expectancy. Once on treatment, they cannot pass the virus on to others.

For more details on opt-out testing as well as other ways to get tested for sexual health diseases, please visit the All East website.

Directly-acting antiviral treatments for HCV are short, oral treatments with few side effects which successfully cure more than 95 per cent of patients. Deaths due to HIV have decreased, and HCV related deaths and liver cancers are falling due to better treatments. However, nearly 40 per cent of people with HIV and 50 per cent with HCV are diagnosed late, which can result in significant ill health and higher death rates.

The high prevalence of HIV within Tower Hamlets (6.35 per 1,000 residents) makes it one of the top 15 boroughs in the country, and more than twice as high as the rest of England (2.3 per 1,000) according to the 2017 PHE report.

The Trust has produced several publications on BBV testing including the first published data in the world on Intensive Care Unit opt-out testing (The Lancet). Barts Health NHS Trust has also produced the UK’s first data showing cases of HCV in patients tested in a hospital’s Emergency Department. 

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