The Chief Executive of one of the UK’s largest Foundation Trusts, and patron of the national “Saving Lives Campaign”, has welcomed the new guidance from the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) on HIV testing.
Dr Mark Newbold, chief executive of Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust, welcomed the new guidelines as “very important”, and said that they “fully support what we have been trying to achieve locally: that is, diagnosing HIV early, when treatment is most effective and we can make a real impact on saving lives”.
“We have recently introduced a new HIV testing protocol across our 4 hospitals as part of our collaboration with the national “Saving Lives Trust” and these are very much in-line with the much needed the guidance from NICE, as well as those by the British HIV Association and the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV”.
The Trust, is now one of the first in the country to implement its new HIV testing policy, encouraging clinicians and healthcare professionals from across the trust to include and recommend routine HIV tests to patients who present to the trusts hospital with key indicator conditions.
“With 22,000 people infected with HIV in the UK still unaware they are infected, normalising testing and making it more routinely accepted is the only way we can tackle this silent problem,” said Dr Newbold.
Dr Stephen Taylor, lead consultant at the Birmingham Heartlands HIV Service, added:
“There are four reasons why people are dying of advanced HIV in the UK:
1. They do not consider themselves at risk.
2. HIV testing is not routinely offered in GP practices or hospitals.
3. One in four people (22,000) infected with HIV in the UK remain undiagnosed.
4. If undiagnosed they cannot receive life saving treatment and can unknowingly infect others.
“Of the newly diagnosed HIV-positive people admitted to our hospital last year, over 80% of them were late diagnoses, and all had been in contact with medical services multiple times in the year preceding their admission to hospital”
“Some of these patients died because they simply presented too late for the therapy to be effective. The tragedy is that this could have been avoided if patients were diagnosed in the community much earlier. Not only that, but earlier diagnosis may have prevented their sexual partners from becoming infected,” he added.
“The new Saving Lives HIV testing guidelines we now have in place set out very clearly the indicator conditions, which should prompt healthcare professionals to offer and recommend routine HIV testing” he explained.
The NICE guidance comes out on a day when new data from the HPA (Health Protection Agency (HPA) reveal that new diagnoses for people infected with HIV in the UK almost doubled over the past decade, (from 1,950 in 2001 to 3,780 in 2010 )
If these 3,780 UK-acquired cases in 2010 had been prevented, over £32 million annually or £1.2 billion over a lifetime in costs could have been saved.
The Birmingham Heartlands HIV service and the Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust are therefore proud to be involved with the newly formed not-for-profit Saving Lives Campaign. Each organisation shares the aims of raising awareness, preventing late diagnosis, leading patients onto treatment more quickly … and thus saving lives and preventing new infections.