Call for quicker diagnosis of HIV

Testing for HIV
Testing for HIV

Public health chiefs at Northamptonshire County Council are calling for fewer late diagnoses of HIV in the county.

A late diagnosis means that the individual has tested positive for HIV after the virus has already begun to damage their immune system.

In Northamptonshire, 61.8 per cent of people received a late diagnosis of HIV, this is 16.8 percentage points higher than the national figure of 45 per cent (figures based on data from 2011 to 2013).

Not only does a late diagnosis mean greater costs to the health economy with increased hospital admissions and demands on social care services, but more significantly, those individuals receiving a late diagnosis are 10 times more likely to die within a year of being diagnosed.

To tackle this issue, public health is working with sexual health services and both Nene Clinical Commissioning Group and Corby Clinical Commissioning Group and well as Northampton and Kettering hospitals to promote the use of HIV testing to decrease the number of people who receive a late diagnosis.

Guidelines from the British HIV Association (BHIVA), the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) and the British Infection Society (BIS) aim to increase the offer of HIV testing that was recommended by the Chief Medical Officer in September 2007.

The guidelines state that offering HIV testing to all men and women aged 15 to 59 who register with a GP in areas where the prevalence of diagnosed HIV infections is greater than two in 1,000 would decrease the proportion of late diagnosis.

In Northamptonshire, these guidelines are applicable in Corby, where the prevalence in 2013 was 2.91 in 1,000 and in Northampton where it was 2.82 in 1,000.

This recommendation has been corroborated by subsequent reports in 2011 from the Health Protection Agency (HPA), the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) as well as the House of Lords select committee on HIV and AIDS report.

Councillor Robin Brown, county council cabinet member for public health and wellbeing, said: “Testing for HIV is vital to ensure that people receive an early diagnosis and therefore are more likely to live a long and healthy life.

“A late diagnosis means people are 10 times more likely to die in the first year of diagnosis plus if they do not know that they have HIV, they are also risking transmitting the infection to others.

“That’s why public health are working with health organisations in the county to promote HIV testing and improve Northamptonshire’s rates of late diagnosis, and in doing so will help ensure that people can be effectively treated and prevent onward transmission.”