The Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel is to offer routine HIV testing to patients in the accident and emergency department.
The scheme, which begins this week, will be tested for a month and will give patients who already require a blood test the additional choice of an HIV test. The project has also been implemented in other areas of the hospital, such as the Medical Admissions Unit and Intensive Care.
The increase in HIV testing at the Royal London comes in an effort to curb the relatively high rates of HIV patients in East London. Last year, the Health Protection Agency published a study showing one in 130 people in Tower Hamlets are infected with HIV, five times higher than the national average.
The Whitechapel hospital follows others in the capital already running similar schemes, such as Chelsea and Westminster and St. Mary’s, both in West London.
Rachel Bath, an HIV testing facilitator at the hospital, said: “because of the high prevalence of HIV patients in East London, the National Guidelines had recommended that we increase opt-out testing throughout the hospital,” adding that they “are hoping to screen 2,000 people over four weeks.”
The hospital aims to target patients who may not know they are infected with the disease, in order to begin treatment as soon as a patient is diagnosed and to raise awareness of AIDS.
Dr Karim Ahmad, a Consultant at the Royal London A&E said: “Late diagnoses can result in shorter life expectancy and an increased risk of transmission to sexual partners. The risk of transmission to others can be reduced by ninety seven per cent by taking treatment for HIV.”
The AIDS charity Positive East, based in Stepney, tweeted on Friday that it was “great to see HIV testing will be offered for accident and emergency at the Royal London hospital.”
If the trial is successful, it is hoped the opt-out screening process will become a permanent part of the A&E service at the Royal London.
By Hannah Flint